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Public Library 

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IUN 1 


MAI MAR 2 4 1982 






Interpretation of 
His Qenius 




in *k* U> S< 4. 




in grateful revenge 















INDEX 283 






Facsimile of CA0r/* c< Drr T$g d&r i*t s& 






FORKEL and Spitta secured the knowledge o Bach and 
his work. Dn Albert Schweitzer has since given con 
vincing suggestions for the interpretation of that work. 
Parry and others have written enlightening studies. 
Professor Sanford Terry has made laborious and in 
valuable investigations, and has recently published a 
Life which enables us to realize much more vividly 
than before the external conditions which influenced 
the master, 

Is it impertinent to believe that it still remains to 
show something of the relation between the man and 
his work? for It seems to me that Bach* composi 
tions were not the objective things they are generally 
believed to be and not only to show something of the 
relation between the mm and his work, but something 
also of the relation between that work t&d the dviHza- 
tioi* of which Bach*s art is perhaps the finest lower. 

Properly to study ta trt which took t lifetime to 
icMeve would itself be the work of a lifetime* I amnot 
pretend that 1 have done more than give t few hints 
along the Hue chosen. 

The more fully to mtke tMs book useful to students 
I have refrained from using music-type examples, and 


referred them, whenever possible, to such gramophone 
records as I have been able to discover. By this means 
I hope that they will be the better able to relate the 
general argument of the book to the living sound of 
the master's art* 

My indebtedness has to be expressed to Mr* David 
Scott and Messrs* Novello and Company for the loan 
of music j to Mr, Arthur Brook% artistic director of the 
Columbia Gramophone Company, mid to the Educa 
tional Department of The Gramophone Company 
(HLMV.) lor help in the choice of ill attritions j to the 
mag^^tracy of Lflweberg for information regarding St 
MichaePs Con vent j to others for permission to quote 
from their English translations* So far as possible I 
have used as the basis of my argument works of which 
such translations are available, 

It B, 

, THE 


HERE was in the life of John Sebastian 
Bach E tragedy which has never been ex- 
ploredj nor even touched with any degree of 
imaginative consideration. Spitta seems to have been 
puzzled by it. Schweitzer alludes to it almost in a tone 
of annoyance* Doctor Sanford Terry in his recent Lif$ 
refers to it sympathetically, but does not follow up its 
significance in the composer^ creative career! The trag 
edy is that of an artist whose inmost nature and external 
material conditions are in irreconcilable opposition 
who is forced by circumstances to devote his life to a 
kind of spiritual service in which he has no faith, and 
is necessarily false dither to that service or to himself. 
Such an opposition in the lives of ordinary men 
does not matter vary much* It teems of comparatively 
little account that a royalist general should become 
president of a republic, or a socialist journalist serve 
upon ft owttrvitiiw itewtfmperi but ttie power of a 
creative artist i exerted in his capacity for emotional 
revelation; if an artist's emotions are violated Mi life- 
work is bound to be thwarted. A man may be false to 


his Intellect, and retain his self-respect by a laeitudma- 
rian or cynical attitude to lifej but no man may be false 
to his feeling and maintain his creative integrity, A 
man may say a thing which he docs not believe- sign a 
state document or newspaper article which expresses 
thoughts in regard to which he is indifferent or even 
opposed, earn a Jiving by so doing and perhaps never 
be found out, or, if found out, tolerated and even 
admired for his ^breadth of view*} but a creative artist 
dare not so endanger his inmost veracity. Once an artist 
is false to his feelings his imaginative power is defi 
nitely weakened j and if he pursues tht falsehood hit 
power finally deserts him* 

Artists of noble conservative mind Sophocles* Chtu- 
cer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Angdko* Htyd% md Men- 
delssofm, to name * few -seem to hive found no 
essential opposition between their own natures and the 
mental atmosphere in which their lives were 
but others* and perhaps i majority of the gretttst, 
have been less fortunate. Some have ben broken Hie 
Botticelli and Moxtrt Some hife their integrity 
by frank like Duit* Beethoven and 

Others, lite Goyi and fctve their 

priBdiJesbf wrtppitg them up in fen| or bf 

t h e use of al legory and Ukc 

and Bernard Shaw, htvt striven for a time, but 


taken up a more generally acceptable attitude, an atti 
tude which has been inconsistent with their most typical 
and virile work. 

The thread of these chapters will be strung with 
instances of the method which Bach used to maintain 
his essential individuality and faith in a world to which 
he was opposed. I am not referring to such difficulties 
as artists frequently have in the management of their 
business affairs* That is generally a comedy rather than 
a tragedy. I am referring to the need which Bach had 
to give expression to feelings which were in direct oppo 
sition to the pretences and declarations of the world 
wherein only he could get a livelihood. 

Even Bach* tragedy was not without Its comic as 
pects. When he ntd his fellow musicians first informed 
the mime which is now generally believed to be the 
grettest the world has toow% they were dnssfied m 
t their bodies in gannente which were not uncomely j 
felt they ware orowned with motistrosities in the way of 
head-get!*. A pkttirt costs of mi^idtM pkjdbtg in St 
Thomas Chmrth at Leiptig a few yetrs before Btdi*$ 
appointment as Cantor; and it it hard to associate 
tite artUkitlity of the scene with the nature of 

tie they wm presently to inter into being* But 

it mv us* tnJy the niiik&uit wh wm Mdcba under 
masses of falte hair. Long bdbre he got to Leipsig 
Bach had found if necessary to put a wig upon Ms art- 


and for a long time the wig has obscured a proper un 
derstanding of that art* 

To the generation immediately succeeding his own 
Bach seemed all wig. For the people of that time he 
was merely a great organist and fugal theorist* His art 
was almost forgotten. Later on his music was rediscov 
ered, but because E new conception of music had arisen 
a new fashion In wigs the forma! side of Bach's art 
loomed larger than it did even in his own time* He 
was therefore accounted a great master of ^deal 1 music, 
which, being translated into human tenn^ means music 
which has no dear relation to reality* In that sesthetk 
faith Spitta wrote the monumental */$ which has 
weighed down upon the real Btcfi like the most ex~ 
pensive kind of cemetery memorial The thousand tnd 
one details which showed thtt the mimic htd t wy 
intimate relation to the material world* and tbove ill its 
realistic themes! were regtrddl m little dbwds In t 
great blue sky. 

Then Br Albert Schweitzer published M$ remark** 
able study, drawing special ttteiitiof* to thcite wy ck- 
teilf--^howijig tfast, ftr from dbuding dit broad 
Jietwi* of Btdi* miwc, thfy wore, m the contnurft 
sten tad coasteiktiotit! $&$mm$ light upoa itt 
dark tud my^eriom 0tc-^0wiiig how they in- 
creased die genera! significance of tJhs art in a 

or the lead i ng themes in the mm^tmim of Wagner. 



The effect of Schweitzer's work was as if he had taken 
the wig off old Bach's head and shown us the living 
man at work in his study. 

Considering all that has been elaborated by wiser 
and more knowledgable men than I, it wiU probably 
seem arrogant if I say that it still remains to show 
Bach as man and artist in relation to European culture j 
but one mistake which has arisen as a result ojf the wider 
interest in his music, is the idea that his art now really 
belongs to us* The greatest master of music has become 
a popular name in concert-programmes, tttd there it a 
danger that his essential greatness may be smothered 
by our aesthetic love and wonder* 

Musicians disagree in most matters concerning musicj 
but regwdkg the iupttune greatness of Bach they ore 
unanimous. Pedants and idealists, antiquarians and real 
ist^ futurists and quite ordinary musicians find com 
mon jpnoutid thore, Hie enjoymoit of the mmc* ind 
a certain limited understanding of it, have extended 
beyond the sphere of cultured musicians to Hie widest 
durelcs of the antitetir ww W, 

Bach packs the houses for cheap promenade concerts 
Fe^ti vddcvotai exclusively to Bach'j music have been 
given In severa I of our chief citie*, and choir* specially 
formed to study his works j while w musical festival m 
counted adequate unlm its progrummc includes at lea^t 
one of his major nnnpoitea Scanning the concert- 


posters in a music-shop the other day I noticed that 
four of nine related to programmes of Bach*s music. 

When a man*s work is being studied to such an extent 
there seems the less need to talk and write about It, 
especially as one of the chief faults of Anglo-SaKon 
cultural life is an excess of books and lectures and a 
general lack of active artistic recreation* So it would be 
foolish if the growing practice of Bach*$ music should 
be diverted to a paper appreciation of it, to say nothing 
of the feet that the sheer greatness of the subject might 
well cause a better man than I to falter before the job* 

But one thing outweighs my diffidence and lazine** 
it is a growing sense that this appreciation of the great 
est of all music is i temporary and partly i pathological 
thing, and less to our credit than we may like to think. 

A longing for beautiful sights and sounds will cer 
tainly accompany any rang civtitzation j but that long* 
ing is by no means stilled dining periods of decadence, 
tud fits ta feet been irery ninth in evidence dining pe 
riods when die creative faculty has seemed weak and 
eifaansted Otir enjoyment of Badt f i music smy pot- 
sibly arise from in understanding of, tnd sympathy 
with, the forces which combined to make if great; but 
our enjoyment may, on the other hand, mm from our 
own Incapacity and cowardice m of the world, who, 
having no power to make enduring musical botuty of 
our own, are obliged to fall back on the greatest that 


was made at a time when a genius and a generation re 
membered what it was to live greatly. 

Up to the year 1914 the stream of contemporary 
European music ran emotionally and even sentimen 
tally. Before the war the outstanding living composer 
was Richard Strauss* His music moved from the most 
trivial and sentimental planes of *Love in the Gloam 
ing* and *The Baby in the Bath 5 to the most grandiose 
and lurid expressions of the *Self as Hero' and the 
*Sadist as Heroine/ Some of us who had enjoyed that 
music before the war had a curious and shamefast sense 
of disillusionment when we heard it again afterwards. 
Could this flaring tawdrines% this pretentious romanti- 
asm, this petty love-slushing* be the same music which 
five years earlier had seemed to rank its maker with 
the great masters of music? 

Of course, it was we ourselves who had changed, The 
reality, the exulting reality of the war, had devital 
ised us, and we needed emotional rest That, I think, 
accounts not only for the exposure of what was weak 
in Strauss, but dbo for the revival of primitive musk 
and of primitivism in modern music. If this diagnosis 
is correct it will account also for the extraordinary 
poit-wwr popularity of Bndb% muiic^ in wMdb is con- 
centrited and enlarged all the values of thoee com 
posers who had preceded him, and even the values 
of some who followed him. Byrd, Palcstrina, Cou- 
peria, and SchUtx Montcverde and Gcsualdo Mo~ 


zart and Brahms having nothing of great musical 
adventure which is not already Implicit! and generally 
explicit, in the music of John Sebastian* 

For British people the oratorios of Handel had 
hitherto served the highest general need} and the pre 
war popularity of Handel wa% of course^ something 
more than a purely musical appreciation, It had to some 
extent become a habit! but was still more vita! than a 
mere vogue, as were the passing popularities of Gounod 
and Tsdhtikovskyi and even of Sullivan, 

TMs 1$ not the place to HtndePs grettesi| 

but to understand the good and the bid in the ten 
dency of to-day, when the art of Handel it obviously 
being superseded by the art of Bach, we mint briefly 
consider die function served by the loner master^ ora 
torios in the story of 'unmu^ail England/ 

HandePs first attempts in England, and km fint 
successes, were in the open-faouie. Open* wt then, m 
now, the toy of the wealthy classes rather than the joy 
of the masses. Occasional accepted^ the 

wealthy kii?e never been noted in any country or poind 
for their constancy in the 01 the aits. Art 

ha* been for them mmm of kil I i ng time rat her than 
0! making it mure itim They pn from one art vogue 
Id smother it from one drc^s to another. So 

Ha^dei inevitably came to h% wm 

stnuided upon t he bak whc he diicovcrcd r 
t femi of MI tacitly iating the *uppre*icd 


tlons of the respectable British middle classes at that 
time, and for a considerable time afterwards. 

Ecclesiastical authority having put a ban upon Han- 
dePs opera on the subject of Esther the objection be 
ing to the sacredness of the matter 1 the composer 
discovered that the ordinary run of people preferred 
the lesser degree of emotional stimulus which results 
when dramatic situations are discussed, rather than the 
fuller experience which accompanies a presentation of 
the same situations in the theatre* 

A few centuries earlier it had been one of the chief 
joys of the common people to give dramatic representa 
tions of saertd subjects: they were then the chief ma 
terial for drama, and were not merely encouraged, but 
actually performed by officials of the chtirchu The grad 
ual suppression of the Christian mystery pkys from 
the time of the Reformation was accompanied throtagh* 
out Europe by the more or less forced activation of 
i. bastard Hellenism j and if is not without significance 
for our understanding of the tragedy in Bach's mental 
lit that the thing in process of suppression hid a com 
munist ethi^ while the thing which supplanted if had 
an oppose tendency, the original human values of the 
Greek stories having been subverted by Roman deca 
dents and imperialists, 

Handel wti approved for rime in English govern 
ing circle*. The approval coincided with hia Greco- 
Rom&a period Hb embarrassing reversion to stories 


from the Bible however harmless the stories and 
similar to the Greek in the fact of their legendary 
or igi n was a definite flouting of the prevailing dogma 
that art ought to be meaningless and exist merely for 
beauty's sake, or for the sake of those who had time to 
kill, money to spend, and demanded amoral amusement. 

William Blake came up against the same difficulty 
a feW 3 years later, and was filled with a sort of divine 
fury against those who %et up the stolen and perverted 
writings of Homer and Ovid, Plato and Cicero, against 
the sublime of the Bible? 

The fact was that in the popular view the Jewish 
scriptures and Christian gospels were ttill the chief 
measure of human life and conduct. It was impossible 
for the public mind to regard anything taken from the 
Bible as other than a direct encouragement or rebuke 
in matters of belief and behavior It was equally t part 
of the mind of the governing classes to regard Chris 
tian ethic as subversive of business morality, while 
even the broader ideas of the Old Tatmnent were some 
times inconvenient. 

Having appealed from the court to the people and 
even to the profile of the pmmt^^imm the 
public to the greater Handel met with hi reward* 
It was not the variable and passing reward of popular 
success, though that was in some measure hit aboj it 
was the permanent rtinud which follows when % iml 
addition is nude to the records 01 Hie nd iiiia 


In the oratorios of Handel the public (though com 
paratively lacking in fineness of spirit owing to the in 
human foundations of their increasing wealth) found 
not merely a healthy amusement^ but an expression of 
the best part of their religious belief. For them Han- 
dePs art was not merely a thing of beauty j it was also 
a divine service and an act of faith* 

Those oratorios remained the chief expression of 
noble emotion In England until 1914. They took a 
major place at the great festivals in spite of the grow 
ing Bach-worship among professional musicians, and 
in spite of the steady increase of power among native 
composers from Sullivan to Elgar. 

However, the war broke down not only the regular 
musical activities of Britain, but our last Christian pre 
tensions as well Before the war HandePs place was 
maintained in our programmes by the insistence of the 
musical laity* amdl in the lace of professional boredom 
and critical derision. After the war* with its violation 
of all that Christians had professed to believe, there 
was no vital religious opinion remaining. The churches 
stood Hfce lamps whose last feeble flames had liekered 

The religious function of HandePi music hiving 
cea^d> it was ii^viteble! on irtiitk giwrnds that his 
greater contemporary should take hit place, 

Bach came to his kingdom, not at a great religious 
artist, but as the greatest of all musical composers a 


composer so great that he was never obliged to empha 
size, and rarely even draw attention to, his emotional 
background; a composer of such intellectual and archi 
tectural skill that he was acceptable even to the younger 
men, who were fed up with feeling too much, 

When emotionalism was scorned, and rightly scorned* 
In the bored Annoyance of the young musicians, the 
vital importance of emotion itself was prejudiced. It 
Is none the less certain that without t core of emotion 
there can be no musk, no living art of my kind. There 
fore when we harked back to the music of earlier times, 
seeking In Its incapacity for full expressiveness t means 
of mental quiet and healing, we wort to some extent 
forswearing the real world* Indeed the genuine de 
velopment of muskil faculty to-day has not yet readied 
my decree of ml creativeness just because it is to mm 
extent t mental retirement, instead of the expression of 
will to face the world, and make if better than it 

In so far as the present love of Bach's mimic is caused 
by a db^isiaction with red life In to far it it reprm* 
sents a wish, consckais or unconsdous, to discover an 
inner world which shall be ki disappointing than the 
outer world which promised homes for heroes and 
grudges them their bread, which proposed t League of 
Nations to end war and proceeds to use the League 
with a view to a war on a larger dale than before 
in so far a* our love for this greatest of all ttlifk it 

connected with our disappointment and fear, it is an 
evil sign, lulling us to inaction instead of serving as an 
emotional tonic. 

The tonic possibilities of Bach's music are great* No 
)other music can approach it in that respect. To use this 
f music when we are really seeking a sedative is the final 
(irony in the tragedy of Bach. But the rightful values of 
his art will only appear if we understand how it came 
about So I write these pages as a musician for wiser 
students of life, as a student of life for better musicians, 
in the hope of showing something of Bact^s creative 
position in the story of Christian civilization, rather 
than with a will once more to trace the story of Ms 
'external life* or offer another aesthetic outline of his 
^art This will, I hope, be read by musidins who ETC 
..more penetrating than I in matters of sesthetic, by lovers 
^>f men and women who are more penetrating than I in 
inttters of psychology. If a few of them find validity 
enough in the general argument to make my mistakes 
worth abetting, and the argument Itself worth pur- 
suing into matters of ait and happiness beyond my 
understanding and competency, the labour will have 
been well spent, 

But first a consideration of the understanding which 
Bach** mime has already 

When it mi first mmm^&d by Zeiter, Mcndels- 
tohn, and othtr^ among those who enthusiastically re- 


sponded were Goethe and HegeL However, though the 
music was admired, the words it enshrined were gen 
erally disapproved* Zelter objected not only to the na 
ture of the librettos, but to what he called 'French 
froth* in the music. That froth he proposed to skim 
off, though he seems to have ignored Goethe^ enquiry 
as to how the skimming was to be done* 

When Mendelssohn revived the St Matthew Pas 
sion he cut a good deal of it, including many arias 5 tnd t 
as we shall see later on, it is in the arias that Btch en* 
shrined t vital part of his Christian realism* 

When Peters, the music publisher, proposed to issue 
B<w&*s Compete Wrk$s it w generally imderstood 
that only instrumental music WM intended! 

For music lovers of that time Bach wts a 'muticftl 
poet 1 (Forkel) attaining 'grant expression by the fro- 
found development and ineiditmtible combination of 
simple ideas* (Rodilitx)* The oreative power wu id- 
matted right enough, kit no attempt wu nude to lex*: 
for its cause. The words of the wad works would have 
given many t dm to that cauae) but the words were 
regarded t the foolish orpre^on of religions pin* 
ciples and fashions of i preirioiis tnd fanttfe pntr^on* 
What remained of value la the music was apparently a 
great rocky grandeur barnacled with childish realism*, 
tad fotmy with French froth* 

Mere and there t creative mind would press mort 
deeply into the mu&ic, and find *5gn of a religion which 


had either been half-conceived or was already half- 
scorned, half-forgotten. Thus Schumann wrote to Men 
delssohn, "You confessed to me that if life were to de 
prive you of hope and faith, this one chorale * would 
bring it back again to you. 

Spitta's great biography was the climax of the ap 
preciation of Bach as an orthodox musician. It was 
written with the idea of exalting the master j in effect 
it diminished him* The biographer^ final summary was 
that Bach's works were *the highest outcome of tn es 
sentially national trt whose origin lies in the period of 
the Reformation? 

The feet is that the ears of Spitta, and of most mu 
sicians of his generation, were dosed to the significance 
of those realistic suggestions which illumine Baches 
vocal works more vividly than ever colour-artist illumi 
nated the words of a missal. The biographer knew that 
the suggestions ware there: those hints of material 
things like swords and spears* seas and rivers, serpents 
and asses, whips tnd winpj but lor the ^ure mu~ 
iieiifii* of the time such things were abominations* eie~ 
cresences needing elaborate explanation, condonation, 
and apology. 

Having got rid of those duet to the real nature of 
Bach's art,, Spitta was obliged to account for the great 
ness of Us subject in terms of mystical rhetoric 1 Then 

*0 i^midkt didi, litbt *dt. 
tit ft* exittfxk ft* cod tf Chapter 3 m Bddk IV t 0! tbc biography. 


he claps a half-shorn wig back on the head of the god 
he has set up in his own image, and the general puzzle 
ment is complete. Bach becomes a 'classical* composer, 
bugbear of children's piano lessons* and most intimate 
crony of musical pedants and highbrows. 

Less narrow and unreal conceptions of Bach's art had 
been proposed even in the earliest days of his posthu 
mous appreciation, Hegel said that it had passed ^rom 
the merely melodic to the characteristic,* though he 
qualified the value of his appreciation by adding that 
*the melodic remains justified as the sustaining and 
uniting souL* Still, the recognition that with Bid* mu 
sic passed from its archaic and scientific stage to a ve 
hicle for the apt expression of humtn character was a 
gtmt step In tmderstanding. 

A more simple* bit in some ways more adequate, 
idea of the music was stated in 1845 by M0ewifj% a 
m*ckn of Bresku* ^ch represents standing and mo- 
ing, resting and hurrying, with a naVvet6 almost char 
acteristic of tike int be^nningi of art Without ahui~ 
doning this minute detail-painting in liter works, hm 
method now becomes as it were transfigured* Hi 
thought, vision, and emotion have remained unchan^d, 
but in the later works the tone-painting r* not so 
isolated.' 1 

Ho proper Ii0wtf t f tht 


of Bach's art was possible until after the publication of 
Schweitzer's great study. That showed how the mani 
fold realistic details of the music were signs of a vitality 
which is absent from *pure art,' and offered a general 
key to the master's tone-language* We are now able to 
recognize the relation between the art of Bach and, for 
example, the art of Dtirer, and even, as Mosewius 
glimpsed, the figure-sculpture of the best Gothic, 

When such realistic detail is prominent in the .music 
Schweitzer generally refers to it as 'dramatic* He very 
truly says that in a certain sense it was Wagner who 
made Bach intelligible* It is quite true that until mod 
ern musicians had (become accustomed to Wagner's 
habit of leading motives they were very much confused 
in their appreciation of Bach's realisms- But a use of 
realistic details does not make a drama unless they are 
combined in dramatic relation. It was the apparent ab 
sence of such dramatic scheme which threw Spitta and 
Ms like back on the mere music c as the sustaining and 
toul* They wore at any rate justiied in de~ 
g something more from a composer than a child 
ish low of if&ltmtioiif and Badi*i realisms wodid indeed 
fc* childish games and crudities unless by their means 
his art were placed in a more comprehensive relation 
to the genortl etdture* 

Im this particular matter Schweitzer does not take 
W very much further than Spitta did, though without 
Schweitzer^ imaginative revelation any complete un- 


derstanding would still be impossible. The word *dra- 
matte' has thus far been vaguely* and sometimes 
Incorrectly, applied to the art of Bach; and we may 
be helped to an even more complete enjoyment of his 
works if we can discover why the master was obliged 
to take a dramatic rather than a purely lyrical attitude 
for works which (excepting only the Passions) convey 
little of drama as the word is understood! to-day. 

Bach often expressed the thoughts and feelings of 
others in a dramatic way f but he was generally ex 
pressing his own as wellj and, still more vital to the 
purpose of the present study, he was continuing a tra 
ditional estpres&bn of immense power and importance 
an egression with which his own pertonilify was 
generally identified! in which his own ideas twd their 
validity* Tint ertditioii! having its source in the greatest 
period of Christian dvUization, was retogniied by Spittt 
to for n the tit of music wm concerned* tnd by Schweit 
zer in that he associates Bach with medieval rather t htn 
with Rentisstiice tit. And there* fkr f the under 
standing seems to end* It ts eras for Schweitzer 
to ity f *In the case of no other artist has the arterim! 
cowrie of his life so little to do with the origin of Mi 
works, 1 * t statement which I think will 
befoit we tow g&ne wy far* 

Schwritea^ seme that Itch 1 * was a dftnutie genius 
is right enough} but not once in the coune of Us other* 


wise splendid study does he indicate what the drama was 
which Bach was making or enacting. The play, the grim 
drama was there right enough. It was nothing less than 
the crucifixion of Christendom. In the effort to give 
expression to that drama in. the teeth of a world that 
was gross, stupid, cruel, and hypocritical, Bach fulfilled 
the tragedy of his career* 


T THE beginning of the eighteenth century 
a German musician had the choice of three 
courses of life. He could take domestic serv 
ice with a member of the ruling class j he could serve 
an ecclesiastical body in North Germany the semi- 
public service of Protestant organizations, in South Ger 
many the more aristocratic service of the Roman 
Church j or lie could enjoy the freedom and uncertain* 
ties of vagrancy* 

Baci^s caiw was spent partly in the menial service 
of petty princes* pirdy in the mew respectable position 
of a public official. To undertteiid properly the Inci** 
dents of his life and the nerwti obstinacy of hit mind* 
we must try to get an tdo* of the guaml 
k which he lived 

The TOmmuiiil Cliriitiaaitjr of tht Middle Ag 
reached iti climax tomewlwi between the ywn iaoo 
i!d 1300, Hie diief *md%im of tlwrt dimn % dl 
coum, the building of the Gothic cathcdrajs under con- 

0f such general participatioa and popular 
as seems to u almost incredible* 


Notre Dame WES finished and Rouen begun in 1208. 
Rheims was commenced in 1211. Amiens and Salisbury 
and the west front of Peterborough date from 1220. 
Beauvais was begun in 1225, York in 1230, the choir 
of Rheims completed in 1241, while the Bamberg 
figure-sculpture which Professor Flinders Petrie looks 
upon as the peak of Christian masonry, belongs to 
1245* Lincoln was finished in 1255, Amiens in 1257 
and Salisbury the following year, while in 1260 was con 
secrated that Chartres for which *noble% merchants, 
craftsmen tnd peasants gave some money, some pro 
visions all gave labour, harnessing themselves to carts 
to drtg the stone. Our lady worked many miracles at 
her shrine at Chartresi but the greatest miracle was the 
human expression that the work of building wrought 
as its gift to the interests of life. * * * This may readLto, 
modems as the djretm romance of a (William Mom$^ 
but it seemed gospel to the times of St Frtads tad St 

Such amazing activity in forms of art and loveliness 

seems to have 00 parallel in the history of the world 

the greater part of a continent engaged chiefly in the 

service of what was redly noble and, as Professor Prior 

dedicated to the service of life this life 

on earth. But perhaps readers are wondering what 

It all has to do with Bach? Let me remind them that 


Spitta, Schweitzer, and all who have carefully studied 
the matter, agree that the art of Bach is the musical 
culmination of the same spirit which produced those 
cathedrals. Bach belonged, not to the Renaissance cul 
ture which was already strong in his own time and has 
prevailed since, but to the culture which flowered out 
so wonderfully in the Middle Ages as a result of the 
common will to establish the Kingdom of Heaven here 
on earth. 

Let us recall also a fact which, especially since the 
war, is apt to be forgotten the Christian civilization of 
the Middle Ages was mainly a German civilization* 
Lombard and Frank, Saxon and Fleming belonged to 
the same blood stream. The more northerly and east 
erly of the German tribes were later to accepting the 
symbols of Christianity, it Is true; so that t superficial 
or interested interpretation of history hm labelled that 
civilization t Latin rather than a German thing \ but 
from the tame of Charlemtgne to the time of Bach 
German influence was evident in til noble Christian 
growth ) and it was the common people, and especially 
the peasantry, of Central Europe who rntifitiiinecl the 
mos* stubborn fight for the communal principles of 
Christianity it the close of the Middle Agetf whereas 
the latin, Greek, tud Gsltic folk were comjmntii^f 
easily overcome by the tjnmnny which seeompiiicd tht 
changes of thought it the li 

It is impossible to trace here the complete cultural 


line of progress from the sculptural work of the cathe 
dral masons, through the mural paintings of the artisans 
and the more developed pictures of northern Italy, 
through the literature which reached its crest in Dante 
and the Lutheran and English Bibles, until finally the 
art of Bach became inevitable, and was developed as a 
direct consequence of all that had gone beforej but we 
must get rid of any idea that those various wonders 
of the human hand and brain had any sort of national 

Internationalism was an essential part of the Chris 
tian creed j and if the outstanding examples of human 
energy and sympathy were concentrated at one time 
in Eastern France, at another in Florence, and later in 
England and Saxony^ it happened so because mental 
energy had special freedom and favour in those places 
at those times* The significance of all the expressions 
vim the same* What Chartres said in stone, Giotto said 
in pigment, More in literature, and Bach in mime. 
Some of the superficial d^racterktks of Renaissance art 
are to be found in that same painting, literature, and 
music, That wit because the climax and downfall of 
Christian principles in action and politics had been 
reached before the art of painting had matured, and 
before literature and music had fairly developed as 
consciously contrived tits. It if a fact of special im 
portance for our present consideration. 

An early indication of Christian decadence was the 


authorised attack In 1209 upon the Alblgenses, a folk 
whose lives were so exemplary that they were known 
as *the good men.' Unfortunately they offended the 
ecclesiastical officials because their creed tended to the 
rationalization of theological dogma, as did the whole 
tendency of the finest art of the period. When the 
officials of the Christian Church decided to throw in 
their lot with the forces of finance and commerce it wit 
necessary to keep the people In subjection by means of 
their superstitionsj but the transformation of mystkal 
phrases into their rational equivalents is t work which 
must always accompany die tscent of a people from tkv* 
ery to freedom^ unless a religion is to be abandoned 
with the superstitions of a peopled mental immaturity, 

Among later signs of the climax was the election in 
1271 of Pope Gregory X, *% man who really timed it 
the good of Christendom, 11 with whom a the tenet of 
grett popes ended* 11 But throttghout the thirteenth ecu* 
tury there were sinister evidences of opposition to the 
growth of popular freedom and the general welfare, 
Perhaps the most significant was the connivance of the 
papacy itself with the practice of usury, although *the 
taking of interest on loans wm forbidden to Chri&tian&** 

Victory went, however, to the clerical dBcbk and 
their financial masters-, and one of the things we have 
to bear m mind throughout the course of our 
9J tfo 


study is the need for showing the essential matters 
the solid and material human considerations which 
lurk behind the religious terminology. 

Reaction gathered force, the original and material 
struggle having gone against the communal conception 
of Christianity j until in Bach's day the strife persisted 
only in terms of theology* 

Dante's exile in 1302 may be said to mark the definite 
defeat of the Christian cause* The terminological strife 
continued and increased j but though the peoples of 
Europe were divided into Catholic and Protestant, and 
cross-torn in national and even parochial units, the 
warring leaders, commercial and ecclesiastical, and the 
remains of the feudal reactionaries, could always be 
relied on to unite agmmst the common people, whose 
straggle towards power had synchronised with the most 
wonderful achievements of Christian art* Religion, from 
being an international and binding force, was subor- 
dinated to the canning ideals of patriotism and national 
jealousy | and the energies which were previoutiy fer- 
tiMied to productions of beauty wore now directed to 
the interests of commerce, of personal ambition and 

During the fifteenth mid sixteenth centuries the 
struggle was earned on by the Hussites of Bohemia and 
the followers of Mlinzcr in the Bachs* own land of 
Thurmgia. Though the strife was bloody, and material 



interests were the decisive factors* the fight seems to 
have been expressed almost entirely in terms of 

Everywhere the Reformation had a definite economic 
aspect: the struggle was not, as orthodox historians 
would have us believe, chiefly a struggle between two 
divergent views regarding the right way to worship a 
god. Nor was It entirely a struggle between a decadent 
feudal system and the earlier forces of capitalistic 
growth. There was a third party in the field, the com* 
mon people, whose material interests were bound up 
with the triumph or failure of the original Christian 
ethic* Consequently, even when the theological dis 
putants compromised (as they did from time to time 
to serve their temporary material interests), and even 
later 00 when the feudal and capitalistic daises be* 
came merged and united against the common folk* the 
battle was maintained. The obstinate character of the 
Gentmi* people, End especially of the pet$antry f re 
sulted in a more or less continuous state of popular re 
bellion, even down to tfie time of Bath* 

At the end of the seventeenth century it wit trill 
the peasantry, with the somewhat unreliable help of 
the free towns (so called) which whole-heartedly con 
tinued the struggle against the enemy, whose strong** 
hold wi$ thai the court of LOOM XIV of Fnnee-HUid 
that in of the Unscrupulous of their 


own German princes. 1 Even so late as the early eight 
eenth century the common people still led the van of 
the Christian cause} and it was they who continually 
paid the penalty of failure* 

The reign of terror which they endured from the 
time of the treachery of Pope Clement V in the four 
teenth century to the time of the French Revolution in 
the eighteenth was inevitable if mercantile and indus 
trial activity were to be carried on in a manner definitely 
opposed to original Christian doctrine* The terror was a 
means of forcing the people into new paths of economic 
slavery j and the functionaries of the churches, Roman 
and Protestant, could almost always be relied on to 
support the anti-Christian cause. 

No one, perhaps, peasant or prince, merchant or 
priest, mm It In thtt way* For the governing class it 
seemed a fight between common sense and an ideal from 
fairyland* between the solid facts of the increasing lux 
ury and power the minority were enjoying, and the 
tiresome and outwent rules of a ftuth that had failed. 
For the workers It seemed a simple opposition between 
those who had more than they needed and themselves 
who hid less than enowg h. The majority of the people 
w$^mj$y held lint by Christian tradition: they be 
lieved that the Kingdom of God could, and still would, 
mm upon earth, on such terms of hitman equality ts 

'Mori, WiUff of Gwmmf 9 tr*!*uon (Bohn cd.), Ill, 



were implicit in Christian doctrine j and in their masters 
they saw men who were definitely in the service of the 
devil, making an end of human brotherhood for the 
sake of money and things of corruption* 

Thuringia, the homeland of the Bachs, had been a 
chief centre of the Peasants* War* There the suppressed 
passion for human freedom had become a no less pas 
sionate argument in obscure phrases of theology. For 
some of the sceptical master-class the theological strife 
may have seemed a safety valve for pent revolutionary 
feeling* For the people themselves mystical phrase 
ology WES the verbtl currency of a vital and btulked 
desire* A reversion to physical strife was by no means 
an impossibility, The Thurtngkni! like the majority of 
the peoples of Europe, regarded the leading prince of 
the time as the leading anti-Christian because hit meth 
ods were an tl -popular. The outward adhesion of Louis 
XIV to the Roman Church damned the church in the 
eye of the people instead of sanctifying the king, and 
tU the petty German princes who todk their cue from 
Loult were imtyriily dunned with him, whether their 
religious profe^ton were Roman or Lutheran, 

Menzel, writing from the point of view of the middle 
classes says that in The Grand Monarch 1 mm ae- 
complj&hcd the int revolution against the Middle 

*Hi tatd with truth, I *m the for cmir* France 

At **id fit p0pte t were fei*. The **>!* of 


the entire nation was to do the will of their sovereign. 
For it is Our Pleasure, was the usual termination to his 
commands. The magnificent chateau of Versailles, the 
abode of this terrestrial deity, was peopled with mistresses 
and a countless troupe of parasites, on whom the gold 
drawn from the impoverished and oppressed people, was 
lavished. The nobility and clergy, long subject to their 
lord and king, shared the licence of the court, and formed 
& numerous band of courtiers, whilst men of the lower 
classes^ whote superior parts had brought them into note, 
were attached as philosophers, poets and artists, to the 
court* the monarch extending his patronage to every art 
and science prostituted by flattery. The French Court, 
although externally Catholic, was solely guided by the 
tenets of the new philosophy, which wera spread over 
the rest of the world by the sonnets of anacreontic poets 
and the bon-mots of court savants* This philosophy set 
forth that egotism was the only quality natural to man, 
that virtues were but feigned, or when real ridiculous. 
Freedom from the ancient prejudice of religion or honour, 
and carelessness in the choice of means for the attain 
ment of an object, were regarded a$ proofs of genius. 
Immorality wa$ the necessary accompaniment of talent* 
Virtue implied stupidity; the grossest licence the greatest 
wit* Viet became the mode, was publicly displayed and 
admired* The firat duty imposed upon knighthood, the 
protection of innocence, was exchanged lor eeductio^ 
adultery, or nightly orgies, and the highest ambition of 
the prince, die courtier, or the officer, was to enrich the 
chroniqve sc&ndaltut* with bis name. A courtier's honour 
comktcd in breaking hia word, m deceiving maiden* and 
cheating creditors, in contracting enormous debte and in 
boasting of their remaining unpaid; nor was thi* dcmoral- 
Uttfea confined w private Iff. The cabinet of Versailles^ 


in Its treatment of all the European powers, followed 
the rules of this modern philosophy * * * it treated laws 
treaties and truth with contempt, and ever insisted upon 
its own infallibility. The doctrine that a prince can do 
no wrong had a magical effect upon the other sovereigns 
of Europe. Louis XIV became their model, and the object 
to which most of them aspired ) the attainment like him 
of deification on earth* Even Germany, impoverished and 
weakened by her recent struggle, was infected by this 
universal mania. In 1656 John George II began to ict 
the part of a miniature Louis XIV in starving and desolate 
Saxony, ... To him succeeded In 1680 John George III 
who spent all he possessed on his troops; theft in 1691 
John George IV who reigned until 1694 *<* whose mis- 
tress reigned jointly with her mother over the country 
and plundered the people* whilst his mbiiier openly car- 
ried on & system of robbery nd extortion/ 1 

And so we arrive at Btch^ own Germany In Bach f $ 
own time, with the ruling ekss definitely anti-popular 
and imti-Christkn, and as definitely hand in glove with 
the ecclesiastical class. 

The varying alignments of the French monarchy tnd 
the sdb*4ivi$ions of the German Empire* tnd the op 
position between Roman and Lutheran cdesiaitiiim% 
are confused and almost unintelligible unless we naltte 
that the masses of the people wore opposed in wme in* 
itwiees to a Gttholk mmom^y with feudal connection^ 
and in other am to i Brotottnt bmrgeoiiie which, 
with increasing financial power, was beginning to as 
sume aristocratic airs, 



The religion and the political bias of the governing 
class of Germany were dictated by a will to keep their 
own people in subjection, and by a struggle to maintain, 
and if possible to extend, their powers and possessions 
against their own peers, and especially against the grow 
ing pretensions of the commercial class* Wherever 
feudal influence was deeply entrenched the Roman 
Catholic organization was favoured. It had served the 
feudal purpose while it played the game of betraying 
the Christian principles which had made it popular from 
the beginning; and it could still function treacherously 
in so far as the ignorant and superstitious masses were 

There was one outstanding exception feudal Prus 
sia* where it suited the purpose of the Brandenburgers 
to be associated with the rising influence of commerce 
and finance, 

Of Protestant dfedtr^Son there were two lands: 
the one Orthodox Lutheran, the other Fietkt These 
were the respective expressions in theological terms 
of the growing commercial interests* and of those who 
were on the side of the artisans and peasantry. 

As we know front the story of the Reformation in 
En^bm^ full power and influence did not at once pass 
from men of feiidml tnd Catholic ftith to men of mer- 
ctntsle tnd Frofco^mt faitk They straggled against 
etch other for power, but had in fact to lemrn to shsu-e 
it between them until such time it they became merged 


in one ruling class* Quite early in the struggle rich 
families of middle-class origin gave financial backing to 
the *Holy* Roman Empire* 

Even In ThuringJa, *the headquarters of the Prot 
estant movement/ the old faith had a strong backing; 
and, as we shall see presently, affected the course of 
Bach's mental development. The difficulty was for the 
Protestant ecclesiastics to provide a religion which 
would ensure support from the ruling class without 
alienating the feelings of the masses who provided the 
driving power of the Reformation* 

In the South, where Catholic influences were strong- 
e$t> there still prevailed the habits which regularly 
accompany the division of a people into classes of oc~ 
treme wealth and penury > and as regularly lead to some 
Mud of popular revolt* 

'Licence was carried to the greatest excess in Baden- 
Durlach where the margrtve f Owlet William, built 
Carlmihe in the rntdst of foretti, &*D* 1715* and in 
imitation of the celebrated French deer parks. There he 
kept a hundred and sixty garden nymphs who bore 
him a countless number of children.* 

In order to compete with accommodating a re* 
ligion as the decadent Roman CathoHc, Protestant the 
ologians had to be even more accommodating. But 
where so] id i ntemts were at stake the particular brand 
of religion did not very much * The Elector of 

Saxony, whose influence ws$ paramount in Bach '* coun- 


try and early life, changed from Protestant to Catholic 
that he might succeed to the throne of Poland; and the 
reader may be reminded that, according to the arrange 
ment made by Roman and Lutheran princes and priests 
assembled at Augsburg, it was decided that the religion 
of the peoples of Germany should be that of their 
various rulers. Presumably, therefore, they were to 
change when the local kinglet changed! 

For a sceptical ruling class such changes meant noth 
ing. For the people they were vitaL 

Ab&fcract and obscure though the theology seems to 
us, the vague phrases really referred to things of ma 
terial importance. People were in some ways more 
superstitious than their fathers had been * but anyhow 
their Protestantism had definite relation to their physi 
cal weH-being and mental freedom. They may have 
been puzzled to explain what they were talking about 
when they cursed *the scarlet woman of Babylon 1 and 
pinned their faith to c the New Jerusalem* j but they 
fanew well enough what they suffered beemise of the 
gaily Miring women on whose siceotint their princes teed 
them dry; and with all of the life and hope that re 
mained to them they looked for a better state of affairs 
in the future. 

It MMM to lurae been thoie of tibt pofdtar p^ty with 
tito molt mlrtk idbts who had t?en Ltithtr most 

v For ftaMftu* *ip*n4hm* at tit AM 01 tiw Information ** 
r A* Lb+vry J&NWtfto */ 


trouble whose pressure made him eventually as big 
a reactionary as any Catholic. It was not until Protes 
tantism had been promoted as *more advantageous for 
princes* that the official leader of the Reformation felt 
sure of his own position j for he was attacked, not only 
by those who looked to Rome and Paris for leadership 
and instruction, but also by those Germans who wanted 
a reform of the ecclesiastical organization indeed, but 
Christian conditions of life as well Even after he htd 
accommodated his doctrine to the will f the princes 
who professed Brotestentism, mtny of those princes 
continued to accept French cash for the betrayal of their 
own people; and it was a common thing for them to 
sell thousands of their subjects ts cannon-fodder to 
England, HoUsm*^ and other powers, 

Such a religion WES Protestant only in ntmej tnd 
when it settled down, in its turn, into a dangerous tnd 
oppressive orgtnixtti0n f there arose tlie sect called Pie- 
tista ft sort of Methcxliftt -to reoill mm again the 
essential values of Christianity, 

Bach oiled himself 0rthodbi f tnd otitwtrdly allied 
himself with the anti-Pietism of Mi time* So doing he 
deserted the tradition of his family kit tm art gave the 
le to hit religions professions* He was of mm both- 
ered by the puritankal elwwit m Pietism* because it 
sought to buysti beauty as well as badne^ Dr San ford 
Terry wdl etpraies it: genius, m m musk 

p * . * mud his simple piety had much in eon- 


man with a school of religion which put faith before 
formalism, though he deplored the puritan severity 
which ruled out art from the adornments of the 
sanctuary*' l / 

Bach had to earn a living in the only way known to 
him. The means were in the hands of his spiritual ene 
mies. He acted much as Michael Angelo and Rabelais 
acted in the like casej but because Bach's material was 
music the insurrectionary nature of his symbolism is 
less obvious, 

*S***0rd Ttrry, **: Biogr*pby t p. 8 a* 


JACH was brought up In the hard school of 

He was born at Eisenach on March the 
twenty-first, 1685, That was the birth year of Handel 
al$oj of Gay too, the author of the Beggars' Opera j and 
of Berkeley, the English bishop with the atheistic phil 
osophy* The Pope was Innocent XI, % man of whom 
even his enemies found it hard to evil 1 & Pope 
who allied himself with Protestant powers in order to 
check the pretensions of tfie Catholic Jong, Louis XIV. 
That is one of many things which go to prove that the 
theological strife of creeds was but a small matter it 
compared with the economic strife which lay at the root 
of the changing conditions. 

Louis mm then it the climax of his autocratic power. 
Thousands of Protestants were being massacred in 
France; thousand$ more sought refuge in countries 
where there *w Jess intolerance. 

It was a time of arch itectund kvmhne^s and inanity i 
time when painting and Jtentum nwt becoming ex- 


hausted for lack of freedom of thought, and only music 
remained as a possibly true expression. 

Bach's mother died when he was nine years old; 
his father a year later. He then 'went to live with an 
older brother who was also a musician j but it proved 
no satisfactory home for him. 

One of the first evidences of his passion for music 
was the stealthy copying by moonlight of a coveted book 
of manuscript. The copy he made, it is said, was taken 
from him* * 

At the age of fifteen he left his brother and joined 
the choir of St MichaePs convent at Lttneberg. It was 
the action of a youth with an eye to the main chance. 
That particular choir was a goal desired of many boys. 
Not only was there in its library a particularly wide 
range of music, but its organization was such that in 
dividual earnings were possible. 

Baches ancestors had been gildsmen, town musicians, 
municipal personages of varying distinction} and had 
been known over a large part of Germany* as musical 
craftsmen of great skill With the suppression of the 
gilds htd come a great change* German mmicians could 
no longer organize themselves upon a communal basis; 
they must now tike service with princeling, with Coun- 
dl of Burgher-nottbies, or with whatever religious or- 
gammtkm hid been able to adapt itself to the new 
additions* The convent of St MichaePs was among 
the i^%*0tJi fotmdatiofti which had managed to retain 


a good deal of its endowments by suiting itself to the 
requirements of Lutheranism; and it continued even 
as an evangelical establishment until its dissolution in 

There Bach probably found the kind of sheltered life 
he needed if he were properly to educate his musical 
nature. His voice did not last longj when it broke he 
made himself indispensable to the convent authorities as 
a fiddler* 

So things went for three year% the youngster making 
the best use of his time tramping long distances to 
faetr distinguished organists in other placet! developing 
his own skill as t contrapuntist both on paper and on 
the organ, 

^1/Ve must bear in mind that it wis at first his inten 
tion to be an executive musician. It account* for some 
of the showy passages in hit earlier compositions, The 
facility engendered placed him tt great advantage 
wbe% liter 0% his power M t compoter ripened. It is 
only in these litter day* that i composer it expected to 
adiiei^e good work without t personal mastery wr 
musical instalments and immediate and continuous ft* 
ktion with the public, 

IE Bach's day the chief musical bond between the 
musical artist and the musts of tilt public WEI the 
hyrnn-tunej kit the hymntune was not then, as now, 
dull md ponden>u?i mu^ie, with ^eam*rolkr wfffm 

Along rcmds. The 


hymn-tune of Bach's day, the chorale, was immediately 
derived from the songs of the people themselves. 
Sturdy it certainly was, with the sturdiness of German 
character j but it had not quite lost the dancing legs of 

Gevaert was of the opinion that in the earliest years 
of the Christian era sacred songs were adapted to pagan 
tunes picked up in the streets of Romev It seems not 
unlikely, for that kind of musical piracy has generally 
taken place when a popular cause has found itself with 
ideas but without songs. Under such circumstances suit 
able words have generally been written for tunes 
already well known. Modern examples within our 
knowledge include the songs of political parties and 
the Salvation Army* 

Embarrassing situations have sometimes resulted 
from that procedure j EIK! we are not surprised when 
we learn that there were protests in the early Christian 
Church because of the origin and associations of some 
of the music. The fact that a tune is used with new 
words does not alwtys ensure the oblivion of the old 
ones* Accordingly objections were lodged from time to 
time beamse certain tunes raised unsuitable thoughts in 
the minds of the woiiMppen* St Jerome, Pope Mar- 
dins, tnd WdWher the Lutfeertn Iiymnolc^i^ each in 
his time had occasion to purge sacred songs from awk 
ward secular associations. For the greater part, however, 
the raids of holy men upon unholy quarters for their 


popular tunes proved successful. Without popular ex 
pression in song there can be no real mass expression of 
feeling. Mass expression of feeling is necessary if men 
are to win full courage of their faith. Without such 
expression faith seems personal and isolated, and the 
faithful are timid accordingly. 

On the other hand, attempts to change, curb, or di 
vert mass expression in music have been made when 
it has been desired to modify or damp down a faith. 
So it was when Gregory the Great suppressed the Am- 
brosian congregational songs. So it was when Marcellus 
bade Palestrina and his fellow composers eliminate from 
their masses the slight connections with popular song 
that still remained* So it was when Luther in his later 
and reactionary mood advised the preservation of an 
elaborate scholastic art, as distinct from the congrega 
tional hymns preferred by the militants of the Refor 

What Pope Gregory failed to effect proved far 
beyond Luther's powerj and the German Christians 
stuck to the principle of congregational song as long as 
their struggles were hopefully maintained. As we shall 
see presently, Bach got Into trouble on that very ac 
count What happened when heart for the fight had 
been lost wiU also be awn- 
Luther finally effected a tort of compromke* He was 
quite unajropathetic with the coiioufm^ spirit which 
gtve real impetus to the Referimtton, thotigh It wt$ 


the original spirit of Christianity itself. Luther's own 
character, and his awareness of the commercial forces 
working for the Protestant opportunists, were amus 
ingly revealed by his appeal to the civil authorities that 
a publisher should be prevented from pirating his the 
ological writings* However, he was also a shrewd poli 
tician, and knew how to offer an apparent concession to 
the public, while retaining real power in his own hands. 
It was that sort of action which he took in the matter 
of the Reformation hymns. Many of them he took from 
the Gregorian tradition, taking care that the tunes were 
modified when necessary to bring them into line with 
the popular idea of a good melody* Other tunes were 
gathered from secular and foreign sources. Some were 
specially composed, Luther taking a hand in that job 
also. At the same time he put a check upon the popular 
share In church music, by maintaining certain art forms 
which were beyond the popular understanding art 
forms of undoubted beauty, and originally derived from 
the evolved polyphonic sense of the people themselves. 
But that had flourished three hundred years earlier. In 
Luther's time til such art was derived from a cultural 
life removed from, and sometimes opposed to, the 
aeedb of the masses of the people, 
The great Reformist's own political (Development 
the musical comproiiuse. So long as he needed 

the support of the mines who were in revolt to ensure 
the propagation of his theological ideas, so long did he 


adopt a popular attitude, and admitted the folk-song as 
the basis for religious music. But when his political posi 
tion had been modified to gain the support of the Ger 
man princes against the Papacy he modified his artistic 
plans also, and admitted into the reformed church 
service the uncommon forms of leisure-class art 

Under happier conditions of life for the common folk 
such an attitude would have been justifiable* Luther's 
own enthusiasm for music was genuine enough, and he 
had real love for, and understanding of, elaborate poly 
phony. As Bach's finest interpreter says, Luther's ap 
preciation of polyphonic music remains the best 
statement of the case to this very day: *This is most 
singular and astonishing, that one man sings a simple 
tune or tenor as musicians call it, together with which 
three, four, or five voices also sing, which ts it were 
play and skip delightfully round this simple tune or 
tenor, and wonderfully grace and adorn the said tune 
with manifold devices and sounds, performing us it 
were a heavenly dance** * 

Unfortunately it was the same man who said, c Siag- 
ing is the best exercise there is. We have nothing dbe 
at all comparable with it I am very glsd that God 
has denial to these obetbmte rebels of peasants a gift $0 
$0 fdUl ol conrolttiouu They do TO! ewe for 
tud they itjact the WOK! 01 God** For it wm 

from Schweitzer*! f%Bitf, trait* T> f. 

f< of L*iJ**r y En*. mwL* (&>hn'i Library), p. *gS, 


in fact those same 'obstinate rebels of peasants' who 
were responsible, not only for many fine tunes, but for 
the driving force of the Reformation itself. 

The real musical expression of what remained of 
Christianity in Germany in the sixteenth century was 
not to be found in its cultured art, but in its popular 
religious songs. Schweitzer declares that the popular 
poetry is incomparable of its kind: ^Before it even the 
splendour o the Psalter pales? The Protestant hymns 
carried with them one of the truest signs of a vital art 
in their immediate relation to the events of the day. 

People with plenty of spare time can make art-works 
for beauty*s sakej but the art that is made or strongly 
approved by a great body of people will have an ex- 
pressional force which in the long run will influence 
even the tendency of leisure-class art* Whether that 
influence Is good or bad wiU be dictated by the material 
conditions of the people* 

Of that feet the most interesting emple in our 
own day is the influence which the songs of the Amer 
ican negroes have fa&d upon every branch of music- 
From it hive developed not only music-hall songs and 
ball-room dances* but a great part of the activity o 
tad Ms like* The speeding-up of modem 
v with ite narrows widions mjpon the human 
finds due tnd natwal expression in sucfe 

In earlier tad less hurried times popular influence 


was equally powerful and much less tortured. It was the 
common people's predilection for wood as a material 
for building which determined the most beautiful and 
characteristic form of the English dwelling house, * It 
was the method and style of the artisan painters of the 
Middle Ages which enabled Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 
Burne-Jones and others to make an end of the petty 
bourgeois ideals of Victorian art. In the same way re 
newed life has periodically been given to verse by hark 
ing back to the form of the folk ballad. Thus also the 
popular German songs of the fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries became the substructure of the greatest music 
the world has yet known* 

We are already aware that Bach was an orthodox 
Lutheran, and opposed to the so-called Pietism of some 
of the sincerest Christians of his time} and in a certain 
external sense the master actually halted at the point 
where Lutheramsm had halted. The forms of both 
doctrine and music were such that the uneducated 
masses were necessarily excluded from full understand 
ing and appreciation. The dogmas of the theologians 
were but dark shadows of the real and popular inter 
pretation of Christianity, It was of little use to maintain 
the right to use pet allegories, if the lights of real lift 
were to be lost in the struggle* It ww of little use to 
win the right to partake of the sacrament In both kinds 
and that was one of the major issues In theologiod 

3% imgMsM JSfau*, pp. 


terminology if the people could not also maintain 
their right to the bread of labour and the wine of joy. 
It was of little use to demolish the idol of a holy mother 
over the church door, if they were unable to demolish 
the idolatry which made motherhood unholy at their 
domestic hearths and in the seraglios of their masters. 

So far as Bach was conscious of his religion in intel- 
lectual and dogmatic terms he halted where Lutheran- 
ism halted. Notwithstanding his sturdy stand for artistic 
freedom, he seems to have had no idea of the need for 
general and material civic freedom conditions of re 
ality without which artistic and religious freedoms are 
but shadows* 

But there i$ in the nature of real art a curious 
dependence upon the finest common feeling of Its time* 
Ideas couched in abstract terms by clericals and other 
intellectuals are conceivable by the masses only in real 
values and active forms* Art cannot issue from abstrac 
tions, it is clear, but from the realities which only yield 
the necessary emotion* 

So Bach was forced suk&jmbusly to oqpress in 
music many Ideas towards which he professed antag 
onism in real life- 

feU upon the German masses as a 
ol the Lutibtrtn compromise j and the 
degree of disoEH^rigeimiit defined the point at which 
the congregational spirit ceased to express itself cre 
atively through ecclesiastical channels. So long as the 


people believed that Luther and his successors alluded 
to practical Christian conditions and behaviour, their 
hymns were sung by the whole body of the congre 
gation j but as the treachery became more and more 
obvious, the songs were less hearty, and so the use of 
the organ became a sign of declining faith. 

Protestant music was then changing from an art of 
religious reality to an art of mere aesthetic beauty; 
though when Bach was engaged in the work a wonder 
ful core of true religious expression remained, even if 
hidden in the remote terms of tonal symbolism. 

The transition from music as religion to music 
as art may be followed through the greater part of 
Bach's own career. The master was always hovering 
between the possibilities of a music which was the high 
est expression of real life, and a music which had no 
other justification than its own superb' logic. At one time 
he revealed a point of view identical with that of the 
masses of earnest Christians, at another time he would 
spread himself in a world of pure beauty where it was 
impossible for the uncultured masses to follow him* 

The mere service of beauty is without inspiration} 
it was an innate sense of truth which enabled him to 
develop his musical ideas* From these Ideas even his 
secular works were indirectly derived* Of thmt we have 
proof. He could very readily ind the right tnd full 
for Ideti which ware chawieteriitk ol the 

(the eitramleft) point of view* He would m 


introduce hints of such into the music, though the 
libretto had given no suggestion of them. But when he 
set out to give musical clothing to words expressive of 
orthodox Roman doctrine or the official Lutheran re 
action, his creative spirit failed to be kindled, and he 
had to dish up music already composed, derived from 
an authentic emotion. This was the case even for one of 
the works which is regarded as among his greatest, the 
Mass in B minor. That is another aspect of the spiritual 
tragedy of the master's life. 

By means of the chorale, the Christian song of Chris 
tian people in an unchristian age, Bach concentrated and 
voiced what was noblest in that age. It WES a thing 
from which he could not escape if he were to have any 
real Ufa as an artist* or any self-respect as a church 

His earliest compositions date from his student years 
at Lftneberg. They are all organ studies based upon 

When later on he attempted to compose hymn-tanes 
of Ms own he failed, and praduwDed instead sacred songs 
showing traces of a Hiked parentage bmg partly Ger 
man foUc-scmg, partly formal aria* But when he took 
tibe tm$ wWdb lind already been made by the genius, 
or ieaW mfli the apprwal* of the Gemma people 
wtei upon them he brcmgfat to bear Ms ready sympathy 
as artist and woackrfal sktE tsctirftoui^^ 


an artistic development of the noblest kind, even though 
it was veiled by a double symbolism. First there was 
the verbal symbolism, of the theologians, and then the 
analogical symbolism of the music. The ideas which 
reached expression in that remote, almost secret fashion, 
corresponded the more truly with the lives of the peo 
ple themselves, hindered as; they were by a double ob 
stacle the refusal of Christian behaviour by their secu 
lar masters, and the darkening of Christian theory by 
the ecclesiastics, 

Lutheranism had failed to recreate Christianity in 
the material terms of the thirteenth century; so people's 
thoughts turned inward to find in hopes and dreams 
what was denied in real life. Their hopes were sick 
with long deference. Their dreams were confused with 
clerical distortion* 

So the problem faced by the youthful Bach at his 
desk in St MichaePs convent at Ltlneberg was not only 
a problem to be solved by contrapuntal skill and famil 
iarity with fingerboard; it was also the more wonderful 
and spiritual problem of finding the right expression for 
those deferred hopes, and a satisfactory and clarifying 
interpretation of those confused dreams. 

In Baches Ltteeberg variations upon Christ! der du 
H$t der helle Tag,* 1 there are stmnge musical dues to 
kkas imjx>st*ble of verfml statement j or wlien 


opposed in spirit to the interpretation proposed by or 
thodox theologians and their masters. The first verse 

Lord Christ, thou art the heavenly light 
Who dost disperse the shades of night 
All radiant Thou, the Father's Son 
Dost spread the brightness of His throne. 

has for its setting a straightforward statement of the 

For the second verse 

O dearest Lord, e*er guard our sleep 
From foes* assaults our slumbers keep; 
And let us find in thee our rest, 
Nor be by Satan's wiles oppressed. 

Bach devised a double idea; in the upper part a prayer 
ful music, as if asking for divine guard, and the gracious 
answer to the prayer 5 in the lower part a sinuous figure 
for the wily Satan. 

Noticeable details are the emphasis on the thought 
of security 5n the sevenfold repetition of the monotone 
crochets in the fourth phrase of the tunej and the 
delidously naive cadence wherein the composer figured 
victory, the soul rising to its peace, the serpent sinking 
into the abyss. That Is the sort of realistic detail of 
which Rach*$ music Is ML It is the external feature 
which* more than tny other, proclaims the identity of 
his reMgiotis and artistic nature with that of the Middle 

We cannot but understand from the facts recalled 


in the previous chapter what were the Satanic wiles 
which oppressed Bach's fellow Christians. But to have 
referred to the hundred and sixty garden nymphs of 
a Catholic prince as daughters of Satan, or to have 
referred to the extortions of the princes who were 
aping the Grand Monarch as the assaults of foes, was 
impossible. In the pregnant phrase of William Blake, 
it was an age when *the gate of the tongue was closed/ 
The greater need, therefore, for a music which should 
open a secret gate, and by whatever peep of reality it 
could give, salve and quicken the bludgeoned human 
spirit. Through such a gate could pass many ideas which 
were censored even by the clericals who had been orig 
inally established to circulate them. 

Equally realistic is a figure in the third verse; 

E*en though our weary eyelids fa!!, 
O keep our hearts true to thy call 
Above m stretch thy sheltering hand 
Lest sin or shame our dreams should brand. 

When the composer had pictured the falling eyelids 
of the first line, he turned the phrase round into a rising 
passage, and so suggested the idea of iJertoesi. He did 
not disdain a physical suggestion also for the stretched 
handj expiring it by a straining syncopation j and fate 
gtve the upetirgenoe of ma and shame In a passage which 
throm the Bitefier^s thoughts back to the prewtit m- 
nation, m if to indicate that though the devil had been 


thrown down at the end of the second verse he was still 
capable of returning. 

And in the fourth verse the fiend does very surely 
return, not only in the words, but more powerfully 
in the music. The verse runs 

We pray Thee, Jesus Christ our Lord, 
'Gainst Satan's cunning help afford. * 

May he whose fell hosts camp around 
Ne'er drag us with him to the ground. 

The music makes It clear that the outcome of the strife 
is by no means certain. From beginning to end the tune 
is merged in the serpentine figures which symbolise the 
Satanic hosts. 

In the earlier years of Gothic growth, when the fight 
was still undecided, pictures of The Last Judgment had 
been painted upon the interior walls of churches, gen 
erally across the arch which spanned the steps to the 
chancel* It was *the most prominent place on the whole 
of the church walls/ The artisan painters of that time 
seemed to have been as much concerned with devils 
goiMbg up sinners as with the bliss of the good peo 
ple* 1 But whe% later o% the people gained more influ 
ence in governmental organization, and consequently 
enjoyed better material life on earth, the victory over 
Saturn seemed o certain that there was the less need 
to press home the results of wickedness. 

*ftattfc K<mdo, Jtewl JMU%* Engfah Otamitff during 



Consequently, in later representations the artists were 
more concerned to show the saints. Wells, Westmin 
ster, and Lincoln manifest the joys only. There is 
almost; a merriment in this thirteenth century delivery 
of the sculptural mind. 31 

Lest any wiseacre disputes this on the ground that 
the difference was national, let the reader remember 
the essentially international basis of medieval Christian 
ity. The return of the devils in the music of Bach had 
no exact counterpart in the art of England, it is truej 
but that was because the composers of the Elizabethan 
decadence and the Restoration shame were not even 
religious enough to be ashamed of, or disgusted with 
them. PurcelPs devils had no teeth for the same reason 
that Michel Angelo's angels had no wings, Bach, with 
a more realistic and topical feeling for religious ideas, 
knew that deviltry had resumed its sway on earth, and 
was therefore obliged, as a conscientious artist, to place 
it in the, forefront of his music It is a thought which 
was often with him, and we shall meet with even more 
significant expressions of it* 

For the fifth variation t symbolism Is used akin to 
that of illuminated imnuscripts tnd the illustrative 
comment of William Blake. 8 

1 Prior, Bigfa &f*$m f etc., already cited. 

For example ita 5 A number of Biff Fist* B*tr%. 

* good fetofii^itJi^ *f the Utter fit Wkte^Pl I Hwfy **/ 

Boo* of Job, 

The words run: 

Sure 'tis thy hearfs most "precious blood 
Has won our souls thy brotherhood; 
And so indeed the Father meant 
When to the earth Thyself He sent. 

During periods of revolt the feeling of brotherhood 
is a key-emotion, and not approved by the powers in 
possession. Its implications are nearer to action than to 
art Nevertheless^ Bach, boy though he still was, found 
for the idea an obscure but fitting symbol indeed, per 
haps the more to his purpose because obscure. 

The tune is placed in the tenor and written in such 
a manner that both hands of the performer must be 
employed in its delivery, so there is no possibility of 
the main theme being brought into prominence by 
means of a solo stop* The melody is, in fact, entirely 
merged in the figure which plays around it from be 
ginning to end, even as the Christian idea of the 
brotherhood of all human beings centred around the 
typical Man, the Son of the All-Father* 

A more physical realism returns in the fifth verse; 

O set thine angels round our bed, 
And let our thoughts to thee be Ie4 
That guarded ao north, east, south, west, 
* From Satan's lures we find aure rest, 

Here the complete time is set tbont with t wiving 
wing-figure in triple time the kind of figure which 
Bach generally associated with angels. 


Hitherto the music has contained no part for the 
pedals of the organ. Such a part he added at a later 
date to the music of the last verse, where the chief 
thought is the, all-sustaining power of God. 

Safe in Thy care so shall we sleep 
While wakeful angels watch do keep, 
God eternal Three in One 
For ever may Thy praises run ! 

The reference to angels is musically translated into 
a rhythmic figure of four semi-quavers which seems a 
variation of the triple figure in the previous verse. The 
idea of the Trinity is represented by a triple statement 
of the crochet monotones which gave a hint of divine 
security to the emotion of the second verse. 

The outstanding feature of these hymn-tune varia 
tions is, of course, the childlike realism of the thematic 
material. To musicians sophisticated with the knowledge 
of later, subtler, tad less exuberant art-forms such 
realism may seem foolish, because the pictorial sug- 
gestiventess of music is limited, and ^econdmy to its 
power of emotional evocation. Indeed the overage 
music-lover with little opportunity for detailed study 
of the music would probably most of the symbol- 
Ism, catchmg at a int hearing only the atiget-igures 
and perhaps the Sttank illusions* But emy detail WES 
present for Bach himself, and that wt In a way the 
chief thing, much m the wealth of scarcely visible fig 
ure-sculpture in Gothic had for its chief value, not the 


pleasure of the onlooker but the faith of the masons 
who carved it. 

And if the realistic and remote symbols are lost in 
the general emotion of the music it must be remem 
bered that the sculptural details of the twelfth and 
thirteenth centuries were none the less separately mean 
ingful because they were secondary to the statement 
and dissemination of definite religious ideas. 

Realism of sculptural detail was inevitable because 
the masons had a very present conception of religion 
and an increasing sense of the reality of Christianity; 
Bach's realism was due to the same cause, even though 
Christianity itself was in decline* 

Whenever men are intent on the expression of 
thoughts which are material to their welfare, far from 
a pedantic attempt to divest their work of realistic sug- 
gestio% they will most certainly use any methods which 
give completest reality to their conceptions* They will 
not say. The idea of remorse is too subtle to be ex 
pressed in stone, which demands treatment in three- 
dimensional form. They will say, Wh&t physical suf 
fering gives an escpression nearest to that of remorse? 
tad proceed to carve a figure Hfce the grotesque on the 
toww of St MldbtePs tt Coventry, tearing Its cheeks 
apart iritib its hands* If they omnot believe in the 
cepfeed Mgbii of their time tibey will ignore it as 
Mdtoid SbnwMi did* when he transferred Ms worship 
from the baby in the manger to the baby in the bath. 


Not a matter of high thought, but at least of real 
thought, and a degenerate age can expect little high 
thought in its art. However puerile the matter of 
Strauss's Domestic Symphony it had the virtue of 

Only when men are pretending to give expression 
to ideas in which they do not believe do they make es 
thetic fuss, bothering their minds and confusing the art- 
lover with the rights and wrongs of movement sug 
gested in stone, or fact in music. Only when artists have 
lost faith in life itself, and are bereft of any public 
cause worthy their service, do they regard topical and 
local and personal allusions as being in bad taste. 

So with Bach. 

, The Christian struggle, which for most of us to-day 
is a matter of hypocritical pretence or scientific scepti 
cism, was as real for Bach as for the medieval mason of 
Coventry as real as the knowledge Strauss had of 
his own domestic life. Bach could no more avoid details 
of realism in his musical language than the craftsmen of 
the cathedral building could help referring to common 
details of their own preservation and knowledge, things 
generally concerning their civic lives as members of 
the international Christian brotherhood* 
w'TJbat Bach incorporated many petty and pregnant de 
tails in the great line of Ms work is another proof that 
he was most intent on expressing the realities of re 
ligion, and less concerned in miking great works of art 


A thorough believer in anything will give expression 
to his belief with all the skill at his command, not with 
the idea of drawing attention to that skill, but with the 
intention of propagating his faith; nor will he pride 
himself on the small number of those who are able to 
receive his message. An artist of that kind will gain 
power with every effort that he makes, and sooner or 
later, if his cause is good and his industry unfailing, 
he will become in his own particular medium what is 
called *a great artist. 3 But a man who sets out to be 
a great artist and has no cause to serve, can never be 
come more than a clever juggler j we may admire him 
for his trickery, but that will soon tire us, and we shall 
feel the need of a fresh diversion. 
L ~ The fact that in his early hymn-tone variations Bach 
had felt the need of expressing his thought in such vivid 
detail is sign enough that his purpose was not that of 
mere music-making. Cleverest of all music makers he 
certainly became j that was because he wholeheartedly 
served by means of music the most vital principles of 
the civilization in which he had been bornj so that, 
even now, when we no longer believe the legends which 
enabled that civilization to be established, we are still 
held by this mime this music which is full of childish 
conceits, mad yet reaches the noblest expression of hu 
man feeling ever conveyed by such means. 

For some reason or other Schweitzer, and following 
him Sanford Tarry, fail to recognize that the Lfineberg 


Variations express the successive stanzas of the hymn. 
That is the more strange as it was Schweitzer who most 
completely revealed the pictorial tendencies of Bach's 
music, and wrote of 'the serpentine lines that contort 
themselves at the mention of the word Satan } the 
charming flowing motives that enter when angels are 

^ During the whole of his working life Bach used just 
such a realistic phraseology, combined of course with 
the more essential architectonic and emotional forms 
of musical art. 

^ More than that: from the outset of his career he 
seems to have developed a kind of secret code with 
which to express ideas not generally acceptable to the 
prevailing opinion of his time, Dante m his 'Divine 
Comedy,' Goya in his 'Caprichlos and Disparates,' and 
Blake in his pictures and prophetic books, took similar 
courses j but the difficulty we have in arriving at the 
true thoughts of the latter, for lack of keys to their 
codes, much confuses our appreciation of their work. 
Bach, like Dante, is more easily to be enjoyed by us* 
Even without an tmderstanding of the references with 
which their works abound even the secular and lighter 
works the arts of the poet and the mimdan are mch 
that we can easily enjoy the great emotional and arcH- 
f&etaml splendour wMdb ensfaraies the dettUL 
Slid! details wore almost certWy employed iastinc* 
or iraiili^ely, bf the yowig muKkuuu It could 


have been only later, when he had been angered by the 
treachery of Christian officialdom that he consciously 
applied a realistic mood at once vivid and concealed. 

So far as I have been able to analyse his music, Bach 
seems to employ three kinds of artistic realism all of 
them to be found in the Luneberg Variations. 

The first is a direct realism such as anyone might 
easily recognise and accept: the sinuous figure for the 
serpentine devil who seduced Mother Eve, the little 
drooping figure for weary eyelids, and so on* 

*tThe second is an arbitrary realism which, suitably 
enough, is used for the musical exposition of theologi 
cal dogmas: the idea of the Trinity as represented in 
the last Ltlneberg Variation. Abstruse allegories of that 
kind are scarcely to be generally understood unless their 
intention has been previously stated. Folk with a very 
dear idea of what they mean by the Trinity may reap 
special satisfaction from that last variation, for exam 
ple j but the average person, 1 think, will be inclined 
to smile* 

/,* 'Tfhe tHrd, and in some ways the most important kind 
of realism, is m some sort withheld by symbolism such 
m we found in the ftl* variation analysed above* It is 
natisictl analogue of the symbolism wed by Goetihe 
when he represented the opposition between established 
poww and itelirkti effort by the symbols of Zeus and 
tooutrib^ wkewis the majority of people of fab time 


would have more readily understood him if he had 
used the symbols in current use, Jehovah and Jesus j 
but, of course, the use of the latter symbols would have 
betrayed the mental leanings which he then wished to 
disguise. Bach was in a similar plight ; and, for that very 
reason, his realism when darkened by such symbolism, 
is generally the most important for our study, because 
it veils the statement of an idea which could only be 
made if it were hidden at the very moment of utterance. 

Consider the idea symbolised in the fifth variation of 
'Christ der du bist der helle Tag*, the idea that the 
son of God became man that all men might be shown 
how to become sons of God. That in plain language can 
only signify that there is no red difference between 
the idea of God and the idea of a fully developed hu 
man being. Moreover, it places the idea of develop 
ment, of education, in a social light; we understand that 
there can be no such thing as a proper development of 
human faculty unless it is based on the idea of human 
brotherhood, of equality in matters of material need* 

From that follows an understanding of the joyous 
possibilities of what is naturally unequal in human be 
ings; for the things which are peculiar to persons are 
often the things with which they are able to enrich the 

Such an idea would have met with t$ much, perhaps 
with more derision in Baches time than in our ownj $0 


he darkened the realism of the thought by means of a 
comparatively obscure symbolism. 

What was Bach's position? 

The degenerate Roman and Lutheran theologians 
continued to use Christian phrases for the maintenance 
of their own material power. They do so to this day. 
To refrain from such use would even now send them 
toppling j and in Bach's day the Pietist movement was 
a much more real thing than any leftward sect among 
present day churches. 

- Nevertheless such power obviously depends upon the 
suppression of the facts of brotherhood and equality. 
Political organizations suppress them by force } their 
ecclesiastical arms subvert the very ideas by twisting 
words. Indeed the words of the above-quoted hymn 
were designed to suggest a mystical brotherhood be 
tween Christ in the skies and men on earth} and so to 
undermine the real meaning of brotherhood as the 
right to m&tmd equality between Pope and swineherd, 
Luther and Zwingli, the Duke of Weimar and a mem 
ber of his bond. That was the reality of Christian ethic 
which the anti-Christian churches were destroying in 
Chrises name* 

' What could a mere boy-musidan do under those 

It was dearly impossible for any natural emotion 
to be efdked by tfie idea of brotherhood between a man 


and a god. It was hard enough to conceive such an idea 
as between master and man, as the tone of all con 
temporary writing shows. 

4 ~ How could Bach find music for an emotion which 
could not arise? 

What he did was to ignore the theological trickery, 
and pick up the original symbolism of Christian re 
ligion at the time of its most glorious reality, writing 
a fragment wherein a coherent but inaudible tune pro 
claimed the idea of Christ the symbol of perfect man 
hood, while audible figuration declared that whether 
you were treble, alto, or bass, you were equal in the 
world wheref the central song was a statement of 

w Using the least material of the arts, and living in a 
world of thought and dream, Bach at once discovered 
to his hand methods of realistic expression most suitable 
for the preservation of ideas opposed to the main cur 
rent of the external world* 

The other arts had ceased to function as Christian 
activities. No real Christian architecture was possible 
in a world where material power was in the hands of 
aati~Christian& For them the dull piles and vulgar arti- 
iciaBties of the Renaissance^ mth its f^endopagan 

No neal Gbristian paintings could be let up in public 
Rvw* ia DQrert time, two himdrad yean tiiiicr, 


the typical madonna and child had left the stable and 
apparently leased a palace with park complete. 1 

No real Christian literature was possible 5 the nearest 
approach to such a thing was a hymnology with a re 
mote and treacherous heaven~when-you-die symbolism. 
The true literature of the time was the sceptical philos 
ophy of Bishop Berkeley and the savage satire of Dean 

Music with its limited and elusive relation to real 
things was the only art by means of which Christian 
truth might still be asserted j and even musicians were 
sick with the sorrow of lost reality, tending to feel and 
escpress pessimism In all that related to the real world, 
not umndined to serve the romanticism which looked 
for a better world only after death. 

Students of history are familiar with the phenome 
non. When people have been disappointed of an im 
provement in their material conditions, and suffer such 
degradation and hardship as makes them question the 
basis of life itself, they incline to what seems to be the 
next best thing, and elaborate ideas of what should 
have been* telling of things that happen in strange 
places Dante in Ms TParadiso/ More in Ms *Utopia*; 
or foretelling tMngs wMcfa mwt some day be in a bet 
ter world, even lor person who suffer in the present 

***, im example f** F&*j*i ml Child (Bwle Museum) and 
Thf Peat* of Ret*-garfatf (Imperial Gallery, Vienna) j reproduction* 
in Kmckf oi* monograph on D$r<r> translated by Campbell Do<*e*<m. 


Bunyan in 'Pilgrim's Progress/ Tolstoy in his meta 
physical writings. When it is not prudent to propagate 
even such remote ideas of decent life, a yet more ob 
scure method is chosen, and the real thought becomes 
clouded with plastic and literary symbols which confuse 
even more than they convey. 

Music, however, is removed from the world of 
reality j at such times it receives the full charge of sup 
pressed feeling, and takes on the most realistic forms 
of which it is capable* 

I am not arguing that Bach was completely conscious 
of the role he was playing in the revolt against the 
decay of Christian principles of life. He was probably 
not yet fully conscious even of the realistic shapes which 
music took at his hands* He was not the first to develop 
those shapes. He just expressed himself in the most 
natural way; and because he had a mind already con 
stituted and educated to face act% the phrase-forms 
which arose in his mind had a factual quality* 

The music which he thus made at the outset of his 
career was probably a written-out version of interludes 
to be played in church before the singing of the sepa 
rate verses of the hymn. It seems to us a strange method 
of drawing out the church service to an unconsdonable 
length} but that may be because the relation between 
divpte service and human pleasure has now been lost 
i/ks works of art the Lttoeberg variations are mo* 
notomowtj at works of religion we have no longer any 


use for themj even as organ-studies they are of little 
value because the pedals are not fairly employed. 

Young Bach probably wrote them for an occasion 
when he was required to deputise at the instrument, and 
before his pedal-technic was equal to his imagination, 
One authority says that the pedal-part was written in 
later. If so it is an interesting example of the artist's 
restraint and sense of fitness, in that he added the pedals 
only to the last variation where its symbolic value is 
the more apt to express the mighty supporting hand of 
God. But the real quality of that boy of seventeen is 
best to be seen in his figurative imagination. 

^How came it that the organist in Bach's time had so 
assertive a position in the church service that he was 
allowed, and even instructed, to 'strike in' such long 
passages o instrumental music between the verses of 
congregational singing? Was the congregational so mu 
sically developed, and so glad to have its religious 
emotions subtilised by instrumental art, that the peo 
ple were content and glad to pause and consider the 
beauties of such interludes as a fuller revelation of the 
more jdbvious meanings of the words? 
"Por us the organ is a large noise to cover the shuffle 
of feet w the congregation enters or leaves church, or 
to drown the asthmatic voices of elderly people j or a 
soft noise to fill in the intervals of a ritual j or an 
tnachronisiii* For Bach and the church-worshippers of 
his time the crpa was not quite so unserviceable an in- 


strument Nevertheless it was largely used to cover up 
the rags of their poverty-stricken Christianity. 

As lute and viols were introduced into the singing 
of decadent madrigalians, so the organ into the service 
of the Christian Church at first to bolster up the in 
creasing timidity of singers who had a diminishing poly 
phonic sense, and then to cover the shame of their gen 
eral inefficiency and unbelief. 

In Germany the contrapuntal style derived from the 
school of the Netherlands gave way before the monodic 
style derived from Italy, the headquarters of a Renais 
sance which was moribund from its birth j even as the 
polyphony of Gothic architecture in its aboriginal terri 
tory had given way before the pseudo-Hellenic and 
Imperial Roman forms of building fostered by the rul 
ing classes in alliance with the Papacy* 

At first lute, viols, and organ were used as crutches j 
but as the ability and feeling for free polyphonic tone 
lapsed in the decay of general culture, or were cast aside 
in favour of a monomelodic style, the meanness of the 
concerted tone became so pronounced that its fosterers 
were fain to mask it with a more decided and powerful 
sound By means of the diiircli*argaa a dbak was 
thrown OVTOT tine significant silences under and around 
the tunes. 

It was not merely that singly littered times were of 
lower esthetic value than the multitudinous Me of the 
tkmglt tihtit aunt haw bata 


enough. It was also that religious initiative had been 
beaten out of the hearts of the people, so that they no 
longer cared to sing, and in time lost the skill to do 
what once they could. If no instrument covered the 
weakness and the silence, there would have been little 
music of any kind, and the unreality of the religion 
exposed accordingly* 

By degrees the organ of the fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries had been developed to accompany music in 
the contrapuntal style, which was the first conception 
musicians had of part-music, until the point was reached 
when the instrument was more effective without than 
with the voices. So, from being an instrument of accom 
paniment it became an instrument of autocracy and sup 
pression, the most domineering and unrelenting instru 
ment in the history of music It assumed control of the 
divine service in the same way that a steam-roller as 
sumes control of the road-metal it crushes into equality 
without individuality* 

Vulgarity of the most blatant kind has been reserved 
far the organs of our own day} but even in the eight- 
eeath century the tendency was decided. Of course when 
an orgadto of talent is on the stool something interest 
ing may be achieved under any drtumstace&j and Bach 
teems to hare been about the last of a series of fine 
who t&ade good mimcdi commentary, even 
cme of them may have had little 
with the meaning of the service. 


Our master went a step further than his predecessors} 
he made his commentary intense with real religious 
worship. But the situation was paradoxical: the greater 
master of a communal style in music wrote chiefly for 
the most autocratic of instruments! Of that more when 
we are considering his organ works as a whole. 

The use of the organ for ^striking in' was not the 
most definite indication of congregational decadence. It 
even happened that the instrument was required iwtead 
of the singing, the organist making sole response to 
sentences of the priest, In this way it offered striking 
parallel to the reservation of the sacrament, one of the 
ostensible causes of the Lutheran rebellion itself! Or, 
to regard it from another angle, the mystic language 
of music without words took the place of that vulgar 
tongue which was yet another uncatholic item regarded 
as essential by Protestants. 

When Bach left Ltineberg in 1703 it was in the hope 
of securing a position as organist at Sangerhausen. 
Thanks to Grand DucaJ influence it was given to some 
one else. Instead of that fie got a job as fiddler in the 
household of Duke Johann Ernst, a younger brother 
of the reigning prince. 

The young duke seems ta have been a pleasing and 
cultured person j but the musician made only a short 
my there. It involved a servile and immitioil relation 
ship which must have been hateful to any man with a 
seme of original amtive power* 


While fiddling in the band Bach was chiefly occu 
pied with Italians forms of art forms doubtless good 
in their origin, but, as encouraged by the ruling classes 
of Europe from that day to this, yet another means of 
obscuring the Christian principles which had informed 
the great and popular arts of the Middle Ages the arts 
to which the nature of Bach was instinctively drawn. 

Under such conditions the composer's creative im 
pulse was not likely to receive stimulus, and it is sig 
nificant that no works exist to testify to his inner life 
during those months. ; 


'N 1704 Bach was engaged as organist for the 
new church at Arnstadt, his first position of 
real responsibility. He was on active duty 
only three days a week. There naturally followed an 
immediate development of his faculty as composer. Be 
fore examining his works and what they signify of 
mental experience* let us try to sense the psychological 
atmosphere of the place* 

Thuringia* though preponderantly Protestant, was 
no land of religious freedom. At the time of Baches 
appointment there lived at Arnstadt John Frederick 
Treiber and John Philip, his son* The father was prin 
cipal of the school whence Bach drew his choir-boys, 
and Incidentally a great lover of music* The son was 
a considerable scholar j he had been connected with 
Jena University, but was compelled to leave on account 
of his religious views. Spittt tty$ he wis t freethinker, 
but does not indicate if the free thought took m atheis 
tic turn* or merely showed t trend from the official 
and orthodox Reformist point of view; 


We know how at all times the orthodox are inclined 
to stigmatise those who differ from them, even in a 
slight degree; and young Treiber's free thought may 
quite possibly have consisted merely of a mild criticism 
of current superstitions. 

After his expulsion from Jena John Philip took to 
scientific experiment. For that he was imprisoned. Sub 
sequently he lived at Arnstadt with his father, but was 
forced to leave owing to controversy with the local 
religious authorities. Then he joined the Roman 
Church, and was quickly promoted to a respectable posi 
tion as a professor of jurisprudence. 

That gives some idea of the religious atmosphere in 
which Bach found himself. 

From a material point of view the organist's posi 
tion seemed fairly good, Bach being allowed double the 
salary which had been given to the man he displaced; 
but it is clear that from the outset Bach was not at his 
ease there. 

Two details in connection with the appointment itself 
thrpw light upon the early and continuous contempt 
with which Bach treated his Arnstadt employers the 
summary dismissal of Ms predecessor, and the sources 
of Ms salary. 

It cannot have been a poor congregation. They had 
w&ndy raised money for their new organ, nearly one 
Idlf of the sum being provided by a rich burgher who 
in return a special vault in the church} but 


of Bach's salary less than one-third was paid from the 
funds of the church, another third being derived from 
the local beer tax, and (chief shame!) a greater third 
from a *hospitaP which maintained a number of old 

The hospital had a chapel of its own, and it is said 
that 'Bach drew his thirty thalers for playing on the 
chapel organ* j but; the document which states the 
amount of the salary and the duties of the organist 
makes no reference to the hospital except as a source 
of funds j nor is there to my knowledge any evidence 
that Bach played there certainly not as a regular part 
of his duties. 

The whole affair looks uncommonly like one o those 
misappropriation of charity funds which have been regu 
lar occurrences in all countries during the centuries of 
declining Christian principle** 

During the second year of his appointment Bach got 
leave of abeence that he might visit Lttbeck to hear the 
famous organist^omposer, Buxtehude, and apparently 
to do something in the way of personal study there* 
Without further application Bach eartended Ms four 
weeks* leave to nearly four months, mitring even his 
Christmas duties at Arnttedt After hit return Ms ex 
planations wertj to put it mildly, so ctimBerfy eicpressed 

*J>r* Tt**7 Wf *polo$*f fMr tiW f&ura> of B*eii% tttary, nying: 
Itet *Ae chttfttl Uc*<Hi fm^| Im It fe lump if * con^rrgmtion of 
wkfel * ibiflf mmbr coold tubacHlw froo fullm far ttit 
l^ fad 0*sc*ntb that mm If mqr ^f *alJ7 ^ the 


that one wonders whether he had meant to come back 
at all. In the northern town he must certainly have 
found himself in an atmosphere much more congenial 
to the active Protestantism which had always been a 
characteristic of the Bach family. 

The first Bach mentioned by Spitta Hans, alive in 
1500 was chiefly memorable for protesting when the 
bourgeois council of Erfurt commandeered the com 
munal mines j he got himself into prison, and was haled 
before the Catholic archbishop of Mainz, who was in 
league with the burghers. Veit Bach, whom John Sebas 
tian looked upon as the chief of his forefathers, had 
migrated into Hungary, but returned to his Thuringian 
village that he might avoid the oppression of Jesuit rule 
and hold his faith in freedom. Hans was a miner, Veit 
a baker: both of the working class, there is no doubt 
of their tendency to interpret Christian dextrine in 
terms of their material lives. And though we find Bachs 
of a later time in such menial occupations as lackeys 
and capellmeisters (there was apparently little differ 
ence In the status of the two jobs, and in the case of 
one member of the family both kinds of service were 
required in the terms of his agreement with his em 
ployer), it Is dear that the religious tradition of the 
whole family was on the Btotestant and popular side, 

With such a fraction behind him it would indeed 
be mnptidy^ if John Sebastian had not compared the 
C5(mgttii atmosphere of Ltbeck with the tyranny 


rampant at Arnstadtj and perhaps he stayed on at the 
northern town in the hope of finding there a permanent 
appointment for himself. He could probably have se 
cured the reversion of Buxtehude's own post; but in 
that case he would have been expected to marry Bux- 
tehude's daughter who was ten years his senior and no 
beauty. Evidence is not wanting that Bach was by way 
of falling in love with another girl at this very time. 
"""""One of the most important compositions of the 
Arnstadt period was an Easter Cantata. Spitta ascribes 
it to his first year there j but it seems rather likely that 
it dates from the weeks immediately following his re 
turn from Lfibecfc. It is not only influenced by the 
northern school of composers} it is also full of militant 
Protestant feeling, the libretto being couched in the 
extreme language reminiscent of the mystery plays of 
the Middle Ages. *~~^ 
Nottp^ traditions and personal lean- 



work during his first year at Arnsttdt nqre ven 
hir^^TyWy If he had^ot jr^^jto ri^Tthe dis- 
y provaToif his^ offici^ 

Ikl he had seen how both Catholic and Lutheran offi 
cials were wing their positions for other thin religious 
ends, the cuse of yoimg Treiber must have been very 
much before him. But Ms visit to Lttbeefe would have 
mnfonoed Ms mtmml feelings. Moreover, judging by 


the amusing independence of his tone when rebuked by 
his employers, it is clear that he had made up his mind 
to take other service at an early moment. The libretto of 
the Easter Cantata bears certain witness to that 

A matter which has not yet been properly studied 
is the reflection in Bach's compositions of the conditions 
and affairs of his private life. Musicians seem to have 
decided that his art had little to do with his life that 
the external influences which can be traced in the cases 
of the majority of creative artists, are not noteworthy 
in the works of Bach. But it is remarkable how the 
librettos chosen, and in many cases perhaps written, by 
the composer, often seem to contain references, not only 
to local and topical things of Christian concern, but to 
incidents of his own personal career* 

At first it may be thought rather far-fetched if I 
interpret passages in the Easter Cantata as signifying 
the discomfort of his life at Arnstadt, and his intention 
to leave at the earliest convenient moment. For exam 
ple, the opening aria, c Thou wilt not leave my soul in 
hell/ and the last line of all, *I go my way rejoicing.' 
However, when it is discovered how many such coin 
cidences there are in his works, the idea may seem more 

Such references are* of course, only incidental in the 
larger aesthetic and religious interpretation of the works. 
The ret! hell in which the souls of Christian people 


were suffering was the economic and military servitude 
which was being forced upon them; and the way of 
rejoicing was, theologically speaking, the way to a 
dream-world through the gate of the grave. The whole 
.cantata is a Protestant paean because Christ has shown 
his brothers how they may put from them the fear of 
death. The more personal element in the work is nearer 
the spirit of the Middle Ages. For us who, judging by 
our actions, believe neither in the international Catholi 
cism of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, nor the 
courageous Protestantism of the centuries which fol 
lowed, nor even in the pious allegories of the Metho 
dists in revolt against meaningless Orthodoxy, there 
seems little difference between the following from the 
York Mystery Play in which Jesus appears to Mary 
Magdalen after the Resurrection: 

All for joy mefikes to sing. 
My heart is gladder than the glee; 
And all for joy of Thy rising 
That suffered death upon the tree, 
Of love now art Thou crowned Ring; 
There 1 ! none tlive so tnie* so free* 
Thy love passes all earthly thiag. 
Lord, blessed must Thou ever be! 

md the following from Btdi* Eister Cmtttbu 

With sighs hdft ccrapymug * tartfa'i shouting for Joy 

earth's IwgMa^ ti4 knwi no aJ% ; 

Ww mm fa d*$tl* it&btd of one* foottttd 


My heart now rejoices to see the glad sight. 
There see now! Deride him! Foul Satan's in flight! 

The personal note in the two is indeed identical} 
but there is between them the difference of a Chris 
tian "ty that has no fear of death, and a Christianity that 
is desperately afraid even as it asserts immortality. 

The Easter Cantata foreshadows the great Passions 
which are as truly characteristic of an honest but de 
cadent religion as the Christmas worship of Madonna 
and Child had been characteristic of Christianity at its 
noblest period. Since that period the masses of Chris 
tendom had suffered severely; and the Protestant point 
of view was bound to emphasize, not the happiness of 
birth, the glad glory of life, and the comparative unim 
portance of death, but the desperate hope of a victory 
over death and a continuation of personality afterwards, 
As it is expressed in this cantata: 

He who did take on Him a mortal's bearing 
As man hath crashed the foe our welfare that assailed; 
And through His death His victory man Is sharing 
Immortal here I stand with Him. 

Only by some such mystical belief could honest men 
continue to hold Christian doctrines in face of the fact 
that from the time of the Peasants 1 War until Bach's 
own dmy thoi^andt on thousands of Christians had per 
ished rather than give up the effort to bring about the 
Kingdom of Heaven upon earth. Hope was no longer 


on earth $ but a more desperate hope for a good time 
after death. 

Someone has suggested that the Easter Cantata was 
composed to impress the local bigwigs who had rebuked 
Bach not only for his prolonged absence from duty, but 
for the style of his organ accompaniments to the hymns. 
They had charged him with making 'peculiar variations 
mingled with strange sounds whereby the congregation 
was confounded/ He was obliged to admit the former 
charge, but must have found it hard to swallow musical 
criticism from a class of men who are notoriously in 
sensitive to musical ideas. 

More amusing, and perhaps more valid, was the com 
plaint lodged by one of the choir prefects, that Bach 
had at first made too much of the instrumental parts of 
the service, and then, when the superintendent had com 
plained, had gone to the other extreme and made those 
parts inconveniently short. That kind of behaviour was 
not out of keeping with the composer's character. 

Still mor/sojous were the difficydtiesffla^d^by the 
musician's inability to manage his choirboys, and his re 
fusal to train them properly. He found it easier, and 
probably better from an artistiq point of view, to com 
pose choruses with elaborate under parts for adults who 
could read* and simple top linesoften melodies of 
hymns which were weU known already for the boy% 
rttfeer thtn involve himself in treble parts which would 
need much reteurwl 


One cannot help smiling at the self-possession of the 
organist, and the curt answers he gave to his masters' 
questions even regarding the occasion when he had 
descended to abusive words, and had even threatened 
to use his sword! In spite of all it is clear that the 
Consistory had much respect for their musician, great 
pride in possessing so distinguished a servant j and they 
were evidently disinclined to mete out to him the sum 
mary treatment his predecessor had experienced. 

From the composer's point of view the Easter Can 
tata may in itself have seemed a sufficient justification 
for the French leave he had taken. It may even have 
been an indirect reply to the complaint regarding his 
hymn-accompaniments. It was typical of his nature, 
anyhow: if he might not develop his creative powers by 
elaborating the tunes in one way he would do so in 

The time came when he took the words of hymns 
and set them to ^peculiar variations' throughout, with 
no hindrance in the way of congregational song until 
the very end- 
In any case it is dear that Bach had made up his 
mind to let no routine of duty or official chiding hinder 
the main purpose of his life* 

The supremely great artists of the world seem regu 
larly to have found themselves in such a position. They 
have themselves been more or less aware of their own 
first not so much in the capacity they have 


had to fulfil their artistic will, but rather in an all- 
compelling passion to perfect their skill, and then to 
reveal the reality of life as it has been presented to 
them. Dante and Shelley in their exile, Beethoven and 
Blake in the social repression of their lives, More and 
Bunyan in prison, were not more constrained than Bach 
would have been had he undertaken every detail of 
petty routine which was expected of him, and from a 
man of lesser creative instinct could fairly have been 

For his employers at Arnstadt there is this much to 
be said: though they were annoyed they obviously had 
the feeling that some latitude should be accorded to 
their servant for the sake of his genius, or because of 
the glory which his service reflected on their church* 

Bach himself, however, seems to have been unrelent 
ing, and practically ignored those parts of the complaint 
against him which could not be easily adjudged in his 
favour. The fact seems to have been that his duties 
were crippling his growth as an artist, and were not 
even fulfilling a truly religious purpose, 

Regular work with all it brings of security aad dis 
cipline is one of the happiest things which life am offer 
to au artistj kit there must be no element of humbug 
in the worfcwhtt is required of Mm mwt be what he 
can give without emotional repiesslofj or i 

From the reuliitit mtmt of hit crottiire nctiifity it is 


clear that Bach's mind was full of ideas which pertained 
to the contemporary life of Christians j but it was al 
most impossible for him to give free outlet to such ideas. 
He was no more free as an artist than young Treiber 
had been as a scientist. 

The Reformation had been betrayed by those who 
had pretended to lead it. Lutheranism had become a 
mere badge of bourgeois respectability. The human 
imagination and capacity for realism which fused to 
visionary splendour in the musician's brain must have 
been frequently darkened when in touch with the pious 
pretences of his employers* The burgher-merchant not 
inaptly named Stomach, who got a, vault on holy 
ground In exchange for his contribution to the organ- 
fund, was a much more important person in the Chris 
tian life of Arnstadt than the publican, the sinner, or the 
musician who had heaven and hell in his head* 

So Bach's two years at Arnstadt were not notable 
for any great development of his power in the direct 
terms of vocal art- After the one outbreak in the Easter 
Cantata forms involving words were set aside j the time 
was then devoted to an extension of his skill as orafts- 
im% especially in organ-playing and organ-composition* 

He began to foreshadow some of the characteristics 
wfeiefa wane to prove Ms real Individiialityj and let it 
again be recalled tfiat all individuaHtjr is of a super- 
nsttm Badi*$ business as a trae artist was not 
low mttMly different ht was from other 


musicians; it was rather to prove by his manner that 
he was not divided from those of his predecessors and 
contemporaries whose aims and workmanship were 
good. Greater soul though he was, it was not his busi 
ness to cultivate an uncommon style. That could be left 
to the arty persons who had only platitudes to babble. 
For Bach, who had the need to express serious common 
things which the majority of men were too weak or 
cowardly to express, the common musical tongue of 
his day was good enough. Of course, the very fact that 
he had bold and rebellious things to utter in a world 
wherq courage and revolt were uncommon caused him 
to use the common tongue in uncommon ways. 

He began to do new things with the pedal of the 
organ, as in the third verse of the chorale-prelude, 
*Wer nur den Lieben Gott'j and especially he con 
tinued to foster the intuitive impulse which, at such a 
time, finds in the art of music the truest and most 
effective form of religious worship, The spirit of the 
sincere artist might be revolted by the disgusting hypoc 
risy on all sides j but what was blasphemy in the mouths 
of money-grubbing burghers could be transferred into 
another atmosphere and given reality and ethereality 
in the remote and spiritual forms of wordless art. 

Luther had handed over the religious conscience of 
the people to the haphazard and fickle ore of their 
political rulers and economic omtrolJers, Only a few 
years kter than the period we art now considering the 


Duke of Weimar openly forbade his subjects c to reason 
under pain of correction.' 1 Young Treiber's case shows 
that such a tyrannical spirit already prevailed in Arn- 
stadt j and now petty officialdom was beginning to inter 
fere even with music. 

The Consistory had decided that Bach's musical logic 
'confounded the congregation.' So he was thrown back 
entirely upon his creative will as musician; and that 
sped him upon a path which resulted in the wonderful 
chorale-preludes, pieces wherein the music secretly 
holds the real meanings of the hymns hymns other 
wise fast becoming meaningless in the habitual repeti 
tion of abstract theological symbolism. 

Not many of Bach's contemporaries are likely to have 
understood those delicate and subtle translations of 
religious thought j but perhaps a few believers and 
musically quickened persons may have been able to 
follow the commentary with which Bach surrounded 
and decorated the central themes. For us such pieces 
can only be enjoyed as mere music j can only be under 
stood if we first connect up the associations of the music 
with the words, and then unravel the deeper and more 
material meanings which were hidden in the theological 
terminology. 1 

At Amstadt Bach made two such pieces: the one 

*Mtaru01 III, ao* 

* See M Wider 1 ! preface to Sckwtiter*f book* and in thif connection 
Profii0r faftdoa Terry teten*e* <w gmtltadfe for having 


with the interesting pedal-part to which I have already 
alluded} the other, *Wie schon leuchtet der Abend- 
stern/ of less poetic, but more musical virtue. Neither of 
these gives any indication of the development which he 
attained later on in this form. He was still experiment 
ing, not only in the technical possibilities of his instru 
ment, but also in the realistic limitations of music itself. 

We have already studied the earliest indications of 
realistic tendency in Bach's music. Before the composer 
settled down to exploit the ground he had surveyed, 
he made one or two experiments to see if he could ex 
tend its boundaries. Among those experiments was a 
secular imitation of the form proposed by Kuhnau in his 
Bible Sonatas. 

Kuhnau was a pioneer in musical realism* He made 
the inevitable mistakes of pioneers, but he stumbled 
upon interesting and important * things. He concerned 
himself chiefly with physical things, so that his artis- 
ticf expression seldom got beyond a childish plane. He 
chose historical incidents from the Old Testament, and 
occasionally they are not without emotional implications 
which nearly result in genuine expression* His music 
for the Israelites when they are confronted with 
Goliath conveys something ol the idet of mob terror* 
His mmic for Stul in Ms mudnes tm t mood which 
would have carried a midtn with mom emotional 
etse right ow into tite realm of ettsttivB art But 
did not entirely reject tfct futiMty 0f 


materialism, as when David's pebble enters the giant's 

There is a knife edge of artistic judgment between 
such an effort and the similar but not identical realism 
of Bach when he sends souls to heaven by means 
of high notes, and to hell by means of low ones. 
Bach's heaven and hell were like the Paradiso and 
Inferno of Dante, mental states where anybody might 
be at any moment of the earthly life, and therefore 
closely connected with those emotional states which 
find in music the most intense and unalloyed expression. 

Kuhnau's Goliath was a one~and~only person, a mere 
historical or legendary figure, the life and death of 
whom in no way concerned Kuhnau or any other living 
Christian. By means of such physical realism there is 
no revelation of some inevitable thing which, until ex 
posed by artistic faculty, has been closed to the general 
imagination* Moreover, old Kuhnau told his story at 
such length that his strands of musical theme are not 
strong enough to hold the tale together. However, he 
did so nearly bring off a good thing that we cannot be 
surprised when Bach with his own realistic bias tried a 
hmd at similar music But the greater composer took 
hiiwdf less &erfon$ly* % 

Bach's choice of subject was personal and immediate. 

4 brother of his ivw going to Sweden, and he made 
a pitto piece for thft occasion. So doing it is dear that 


he was aware of the essentially comic nature of music 
upon a physical plane. 

When Goliath fell to earth Kuhnau was very solemn 
about it, even though the listener smiled. Bach counted 
on that smile and played up to\ it* His Caprice on the 
Departure of a Brother is full of jolly things which do 
not happen by accident. None of its sections are long; 
all of them are shapely. 

The subject chosen seems at first thought even less 
promising than that of the Goliath Sonata. The family 
leave-taking has a narrower range of event and possible 
emotionj but the themes are directed less to a picture 
of the subject, more towards its emotional aspects. The 
sympathetic persuasion of friends, the warnings of un 
expected and unpleasant occurrences, the regrets gnd 
the fears all such show an appreciation of the dramatic 
possibilities of music as exact as that shown with greater 
labour and fuller means by Wagner a hundred years 

Moreover, Bach triumphs in an Important matter 
which Wagner truly attempted, but only succeeded in 
bringing off in his later works: I mean in combining 
the fragments of realistic theme Into an adequate form 
for the eSdgencies of an art which, like architocttire, fails 
in default of such combination. 

Not to overload our study with analysis, consider 
only two sections of the Ckpriee* 

In the first section the friends gather to di ssuade the 


brother from his journey. The feeling of the drama 
takes the following emotional line: "I really shouldn't 
go if I were you. You surely can't be meaning to leave 
us! O, but that's nonsense! What good can you do 
there? Here, John, he thinks that there are plenty 
at home without him* Tell him he's a donkey. Well, 
of all the obstinate fellows!" And while the feeling 
follows that line, rising from gentle dissuasion to an 
noyance, the music rises with architectural and decora 
tive restraint. 

So also in the final section, where the call of the 
coach-horn is mingled with scraps of folk-tune from 
the postilion in hearty bank-holiday style, both horn- 
call and riding rhythm are moulded according to the 
laws of pure musical art. So well is this part of the 
work done that Spitta felt safe in minimising the dra 
matic nature of the piece* Schweitzer, on the other hand, 
though generally bent on emphasizing Bach's dramatic 
nature, misses the drama of which this work, no less 
than the Passions and church-cantatas, is a part. 

Why was Bach's brother going to Sweden just then? 
Why should his friends object to his going, describe 
the possibilities of the journey in terms of doubt and 
anger, End mtke so loud a lamentation that the com- 
poier felt oMige4 to we the dhromatic formula of his 
most poigimat moods? Gi*e authority is content to ex- 
pMn thtt the brother went to play the oboe in the 
Swtdirfi guaitl %l a spirit of hero-worship,* That is a 


mere detail of the drama. Let us consider what were 
the relations existing just then between Saxony and 

As the French power was the protagonist of Cathol 
icism, so was the northern power that of Protestantism* 
The Swedes had lately been attacked by a group of 
powers which included the Saxon king who had turned 
Catholic that he might succeed to the throne of Poland 
His Saxon subjects, and even his own queen, remained 
Protestant in spite of Luther's agreement that the faith 
of a prince should be the faith of his people* The 
Swedes gave Augustus of Saxony and his allies a good 
drubbing* Then, following the diplomatic line which 
would most naturally appeal to a king who left three 
hundred and sixty children to be provided for, 
Augustus tried to win the Swedish king by sending to 
him as ambassador a famous courtesan. Protestant 
Charles was proof against the woman ts against the 
warriors. Catholic Augustus then fell back for support 
on half-pagan Russia* Charles seized the opportunity 
to march rapidly through Silesia into Jkxony, where 
he was hailed as t defender of the Protestant faith with 
an enthusiasm scarcely inferior to that with which Gw- 
tavus Adolphus had formerly been wdcomed. 11 

This business was going cm from 1700 to 1706. 
Bach's Caprice was written at Arnstadt in 1704. 

So we tee that a member of Bach's own family was 

Hitter? cittd, II t 


leaving home to take service with a Protestant king 
who had been victorious over the ruler of the country 
where Bach lived over the father of the king to whom 
the master later on dedicated his B Minor Mass. We see 
also that it was the Protestant cause which was pleasing 
to the people of Saxony, and not the Saxon-Polish- 
Catholic cause. 

Clearly then, even so late as the first years of the 
eighteenth century, the original international idea of 
Christendom, which had so nearly been Catholic in fact 
as well as in name, still lingered in the hearts of the 
people of whom the Bachs were a part. The later divi 
sions caused by petty patriotisms had not yet supplanted 
th original conception of Christian Catholicism in the 
hearts of the common people of Saxony. Not so much 
wonder, then, that Bach ended his Caprice with a merry 
song and rolHcking fugal gallop instead o with a song 
of regret for the loss of his brother* 

Before the young and high-spirited mtisidan left 
Arnstadt he had one more tussle with his employers, 
He was asked to explain how lie came to be found m 
dburch Snth a strauger maiden? He ref erred Ms inter 
rogators to the parson. Hie foEowing year he married 
Mi im% Maria Barbara Bach* But before that Eap- 
ptnd fao fcad left Arnstadt almost m contemptuously as 
tie had worlwi tibere, not eimn cdUbcting tlie balance 
of his salary. 


/""TViBTisM was ranged against orthodox Luther- 

1 I/ anism wherever German people retained the 
\J^/ tradition of practical Christianity, It was a 

futile protest in theological terms against the capture 
of the Christian organization by anti-Christians. It was 
a protest against the pretence of Protestantism, voicing 
popular feeling against the backsliding of the bour 
geoisie. It was an effort to reform the Reformation 
after its original god had been obscured, and its present 
purpose of helping the trading dtsses to keep the masses 
in subjection had become evident. 

At Arastadt Bach had found Protestantism E respect 
able and official thing. The whole atmosphere was 
antagonistic to pietism. The musickf* had therefore been 
obliged to express the troth of his faith ts it were in 
secretj to give sjrobolic utterance to ideas which were 
deprecated in action* and even in a stmightforwtrd 
literary and plastic art. 

At MtUblhgi^a^ wMther Bach went from Arasttdt* 
he hid crray wmtw to expect t di i erettt ittte of tff 'mm* 
Utere ma a petty prince them to oecrt m i 


influence upon the activities of the people. Muhlhausen 
was a c free Imperial city 1 somewhat of a contradiction 
in terms, but it meant that, being subject only to the 
Emperor at Vienna, mental freedom was more possible 
because of the distance between the people and their 
overlord. Though the Emperor was a Catholic it was 
not easy for him to exert over the city that degree 
of religious tyranny which he was entitled to employ 
under the bargain made between the Catholic and 
Lutheran officials at Augsburg. 

The so-called freedom of such cities had already 
been revoked; but Mtihlhausera was situated in a defi 
nitely Protestant part of the Empire, and had preserved 
certain links with the old civic spirit when the towns 
had been very nearly free in fact. How strongly en 
trenched was the popular will may be gathered from 
the fact that Frohne, the chief rector, was not even an 
orthodox Lutheran, but a Pietist! He was a much 
loved man of exemplary life. 

At the very time of Bach's appointment reactionary 
influences were at work to displace the rector j but it is 
hard to believe that Bach was aware of them, at any 
rate before he had settled there. 

That the musician should wish to be associated with 
such a city at such a time seems a further indication that 
fak own mind was still in line with the tradition of his 
famly* He bad by no means been obliged to leave 
In spite of Ms careless and rude attitude to 


the church officials there, they had given no sign or 
suggestion of dismissal. But the attitude of the ruling 
class at Arnstadt was 'wholly unfavourable to pietism j 71 
and, as we have seen, the Bach family tradition would 
in these later times find in pietism their natural ex 

So far as we are aware of the working of John Sebas 
tian's own mind in his art, he had steadily maintained 
the tradition up to that timej no overt act of his sug 
gested that he was moving away from it. Later on there 
were two or three actions of a doubtful kind* There 
was his increasing intimacy with Eilmar, a recreant par 
son who had apparently been brought to MQJilhausen 
to undermine the position of the much-loved Frohne. 
There WES a more definite indication a few years later, 
when Bach insisted that Mi ^^rqi* gh^4^.fiBC^^ * 
rigidly cro the weight of evidence 

w&ea 'the master first took up the appoint 
ment he was entirely in tune with the traditions of his 

What is of special importance for us, as we ittidy this 
vital moment In Bach's career, is to realise the frame of 
mind in which he entered upon Mi new employment} 
and then, so well as evidence permits, to trace the 
gradual stiffening of his character as he came to grips 
with the increasing difficulties of Hit* 

la readiness to face realities Bach never failed; hb 


attitude to life was as realistic as his attitude to art. An 
example of that realism in life is to be seen in the very 
manner of the new appointment. 

Before informing his Arnstadt masters that he was 
thinking of leaving their service, he seems to have en 
tered into negotiations with the Mtthlhausen Council 
by no means anxiously? for they doubted whether they 
would be able to afford the terms he was expected to 
ask. Such caution putting up with the pompous sever 
ity of the Arnstadt high-and-mighties until he was cer 
tain of a new post, and, notwithstanding his wish to 
make a change, giving the Mtihlhausen burghers no 
hint of his anxiety such business-like wariness proves 
the working of a mind by this time unwilling to take a 
single step without feeling confident; of the issue* 

This man is the child of the infant who had been 
robbed of the fruit of his midnight labour j of the boy 
who had known the necessity of choosing a music-school 
where he could earn money, though it were by singing 
m the streets j o the youth who had tasted domestic 
service in one of those houses of princely pretension, 
sensuality, and extravagance which made German courts 
a tqnprard, until the house of Brandenburg whipped the 
others to bed; djHd also of the young man who had 
that wen k mutmptl service it is possible 

to infer petty tyraimy, not physically dangerous, but 

toimn iirompeteitee fbm any- 


thing he was likely to have endured as personal servant 
of Prince George of Weimar. 

After such early experiences is it probable that he 
would have transferred himself from orthodox Arn- 
stadt, where he had plenty of time for his own work, 
to pietist Miihlhausen, with an immediate intention of 
getting married, but with no increase of salary j and, 
in spite of his acknowledged power as organist, have 
submitted himself to a competitive trial before a jury 
of his musical inferiors unless he were expecting some 
greatly desired advantage? What could that advantage 
have been but a greater freedom to express the spirit 
that was within him? 

Bach went to Mtihlhausen knowing that the part of 
the city where his church stood was in ruins, having suf 
fered seriously from fire a few months before his ap 
pointment. He knew that the general musical life there 
was in a backward state. It was better even in the vil 
lages of the neighbourhood! 

Can we get some personal and living idea of the man 
gs he faces these odds? 

One of his portraits gives* something of the spirit 
which was moving within him at the time. It is a minia 
ture in penal and water-colour showing fuU cheek, 
heavy double chin, and fleshy nose, promising nothing 
of the punch-like form we see in a later and better- 

'Reproduced In the Musical St&tdard) Anput 31, 1895, from an 
original then Jo the poek>n of Herr Edwin Hermann, of L*ip*ig, 


known portrait. Such features might be those of a mer 
chant well on the way to success} but in the open brow, 
the mouth, and the eyes, there lives quite another 
nature. The mouth has beauty without meanness; and 
though it is ripe and merry, it could evidently close very 
firmly. The eyes are full of light and laughter; but they 
glitter with a fire that could freeze as well as kindle. 
The brow is such as we expect to find in any well 
developed human being. 

Given normal conditions o development, that is the 
sort of man who can add generously to the strength 
and happiness of his kind; but such mouth, in association 
with such chin and cheeks, indicates a large sensual 
appetite which will not readily be deprived of life's 
good material things. High faculties are there, fixed 
in forehead and flowing from eyesj they will always see 
life truly and judge it fairly. But will they be able to 
take control when material conditions become difficult ? 
The nose is tenacious, but in no way indicative of an 
adventurous nature. In that face the will to hold is 
more apparent than the will to explore. Such a man wiU 
maintain the highest that he knows j but whether he 
will be able to seek out still higher things in spite of 
difficulty and hardship is another matter, and it is ex 
tremely inJikdy that he mil knowingly take any road 
which wottld involve him in serious embarrassment. 

A man of tJmt Jond wotild surely have avoided 
k 1707 if he hud been definitely aatt- 


pietist. That, I think, is beyond doubt, for it is unlikely 
that he had no idea of local conditions before accepting 
the appointment. 

There is certainly a possible alternative, though of an 
unpleasant kind. 

It would seem as if Eilmar had been introduced to 
the city by those who were intent on ousting Frohne 
on account of his popular and pietist tendencies. There 
is no documentary evidence of that idea, so far as I am 
aware; but no one who studies the situation, and knows 
how such people go to work, can doubt that something 
of that kind happened; for directly Eilmar was ap 
pointed and began to attack Frohne the new man had 
definite support from the municipal authorities, 1 

Pietism placed a definite bar on certain developments 
of art, and as we already know, however nearly in agree 
ment Bach may have been with the rational and real 
aneligion, he did not, could not, agree that the imagina 
tion which moved within him was other than a power 
for good* 

Now if Eilmar was expected to help in undermining 
the independent spirit of the people it is possible that 
Bach may have been engaged by the same scheming 
group, with the icba of joining the seductive beauty of 
mmc to the less attractive influences of official opinion 
and dogma? } TJbe feet tibat B&cfa himself wis of pietist 
tendency mmLd be no bar to such use oi Mm* On the 


contrary, it is well known to all students of history 
that such authorities, when they are not quite sure of 
the forces at their disposal, prefer to use men whose 
record would tend to lull the suspicions of the general 

Eilmar was not the pastor of Bach's own church} 
yet he seems to have laid himself out to be agreeable 
to his hated colleague's organist: for example, by writ 
ing cantata-librettos. Bach would certainly respond very 
warmly to an advance of that kind the more so be 
cause his own pastor, beloved and finer spirited though 
he was, had yet the oppressive limitations of those who 
hesitate to approve good things because bad people 
enjoy them. 

Knowledge of the characters of those two clergy 
men, however, could scarcely have been clear in Bach's 
mind when he entered upon the engagement} and if 
his art had really been required for the subversion of 
popular religion the organist would probably have been 
the last to learn the fact. It seems almost certain that 
he expected to find in the *free city' freedom for his art, 
and for the sort of expression which had been hindered 
by the anti-pietist authorities of Arastadt Judging by 
the rektio&$ which developed dwing his Hfe at MtiU- 
he wts 

So when, in the atitemnfof 1707, Bach took a 
load of miwod Iiistriiweiits and other possessions from 
oae pIiKB to the otter* w ^T WBeve tibtt &*$ teatt 


was full of the natural generosity of early manhood, 
even though tempered by the caution which earlier 
hardships had implanted in him. He was in love. He 
had the exhilarating sense of growing artistry. He was 
just free from the restraints of a place where respectable 
Lutheranism had held soul, and even body, in thrall ; 
'where young Treiber had had to choose between an 
emasculated mind and a starved bodyj where he had 
been expected to teach a lot of tiresome boys their notes, 
even to the detriment of his own creative faculty. He 
was now to be an important public servant in a city 
where the general will of the people exerted some 
degree of influence in public affairs ; where the essential 
principles of Christian doctrine were being disseminated 
by his own parson j where real religion was allowed the 
fullest measure of expression in those reactionary times. 
And in spite of the dilemma with which he was soon 
faced, the master's life at Mtlhlhausen seems to have 
fulfilled some at least o his expectations, more espe 
cially the personal ones. 

He immediately began to develop the musical life of 
the place. His external activities showed a larger ele 
ment of initiative than before or after that time. 

At Arnstadt his greater powers were certainly unap 
preciated j he experienced there a certain amount of ob 
struction which must have omsed it* him real mental 
depression &ot 10 the tense of a mood of melancholy, 
hit in tfee more literal and vital sense of the word 


because of the dead pretences which weighed upon his 
efforts to give musical expression to the realities of life. 

At Miihlhausen that weight seems to have been 
lifted, and he contributed to the musical life of the 
place, not merely as a paid official, but for love of the 
work itself. That is the more noteworthy because, as 
Professor Terry acutely points out, Bach always ob 
jected to being saddled with any work which was not 
stated in the contract of his engagement. 

For example, the musical library of the church of 
St. Blasius had been destroyed in the big firej and 
though it was the duty of another musician to provide 
the music, Bach enlarged the new library at his own 
expense. Furthermore, he seems to have been in genial 
relation with the pietist congregation^ as a whole, quite 
apart from his official connections. The parishioners 
were anxious to have a set of bells attached to the 
new organ, and were themselves willing to find the 
money for it. Such communal enthusiasm must have 
seemed very pleasant to the organist after his experi 
ence of Mr. Stomach, the tomb-bargaining organ-giver 
of Arnstadt j and a carillon was accordingly included in 
the specification which Bach drew up. It appears that 
the beUs were not finally incorporated j but that, I 
imagine, was due to no lack of mil on the part of Bach, 
whose love of bells i$ proved by many a page of his 
Hie congregational pleasure was probably over- 


borne in this detail, as eventually in the more vital mat 
ter of pietism. 

To begin with, there was a more immediate relation 
between the organist and the people he was engaged to 
serve. It was no mere personal accident, but a part of 
the general spirit of a city where medieval traditions of 
communal Christianity still lingered in political form as 
well as in some external customs. 

The church itself bore witness in stained glass, beaten 
iron, and carven stall, to the living faith which had 
once been translated into art as well as into action. 
Though Bach's appointment may or may not have orig 
inated in the partisans of Eilmar and of orthodoxy, 
the form on an election persisted* Another reminder of 
the ways of the Middle Ages was the manner of the 
organist's payj it included *three measures of corn, two 
trusses of wood, one of beech, one of oak or aspen, six 
trusses of faggots, delivered at his door in lieu of 
arable*' There we have a link with the time when the 
organist took his share in the communal ownership of 
the land, and followed his turn at the plough. 

Most important evidence of all for the purpose of 
our present study was a cantata he made for a dvic 
ceremony. This is now known as the Rathswahl or 
Rathwecfasel Cantata for the election, or the change 
ing, of the city council und the altmrntive title it 

iisen m governed bf & council 


of forty-eight burghers, of whom six were entitled to 
the position of mayor. One third of these carried on the 
executive work in rotation, so that (as one authority 
notes) the ceremony cannot be regarded as pertaining 
to an election, but rather to a change of councillors. A 
proclamation regarding the change was read from the 
pulpit on the Sunday preceding, and called for the 
'election' of ai new council. But that was eyewash. The 
terminology of an older and freer time had been re 
tained, but evidently the people no longer possessed the 
real power of choice. The parts of Bach's cantata printed 
unden his supervision are more frank and refer to the 
'change' of council. I am not splitting hairs in the mat 
ter of the title* That kind of alteration, whereby the 
people were deprived of the reality of power even 
while its pretence was emphasised, has always been one 
of the more subtle means whereby self-seekers have 
managed to hold the reins of government. The cantata 
itself contains evidence of the human suffering and 
resentment which formed the background of the change, 
and more than a hint of Bach's ideas regarding the 
rights and wrongs of the case. 

The first significant number is the duet which was 
intended to express the dramatic Idea of a change of 
servants. Bach indicates no mere change from respect 
able burgher to respectable burgher. The voices chosen 
are tenor and soprano, man and boy. The expression of 
outworn service is jpven to the adult, and the words 


are of one whose work is completely over rather than of 
a burgher who will again be on the executive in three 
years' time. For Bach the hope of the future was in 
the next generation, and the boy sang words expres 
sing that hope. 

Still more significant, is the fact that, while the music 
for the departing servant suggests ineffectual labour, 
the music expressing hope for the future is not an 
expression of Bach's personal mind suggesting joy and 
security instead of failure and defeat, though it is 
clear that he could easily have made such a music 
but one of the peoples' own songs, a chorale. 

Having these historical clues, we see that no music 
could more fitly express the failure and wrong of the 
accepted methods of government than that which Bach 
has associated with the councillor who makes his exit, 
even as the popular song in the mouth of the boy indi 
cates that the hope for the future lay with the youth 
of the people themselves. 

Another piece which is specially revealing of the 
composer's mind is the aria, ^Through mighty power.' 
It is one of those pretentious military thanksgivings by 
means of which various nations take in vain the names 
of their gods for their victories over one another* 

Qa our side didst Thou fight 
With power -and great might! 

Bach sets it for trumpets and dnims to a music which 
would stir no deep feeing in any heart It expresses the 


blatant safe-at-home valour of fat burghers who felt 
specially petted by the Most High and by his slaves 
below, the thoughtless soldiery of the Emperor. Those 
last, however, were luckily fighting elsewhere at that 
time. They were preferred at a distance, however holy 
their cause! 

The real thoughts and feelings which flooded Bach's 
mind as a result of the association of bloody war and 
divine power wrung from him the truer music of the 
next number most deeply significant in the whole 
cantata. It i$ a chorus to the words, *O deliver not the 
soul of thy turtle-dove unto the multitude of the 

A composer concerned only with aesthetic fitness 
would certainly have regarded such words as more 
suitable for solo-setting. Bach allotted them to the 
chorus which most definitely expressed the emotions 
of the people as a body. The music is dark and poignant. 

The composer knew that from the earliest period 
of the Christian era unto his own day the bodies and 
minds of gentle and harmless working people had 
regularly been delivered into the hands of those who 
cared chiefly for material wealth and political power. 
This is not a book of martyr% but as a study of Bach's 
significance in the history of Christian art it will fail of 
its effect if we do not bear in mind certain historic de 
tails which tit too often forgotten when the subject- 
matter i$ owceraad with the beauties of art. 


Passing by the earliest periods of Christian martyr 
dom, and the middle period of Christian joy when the 
peoples of Western Europe seemed as if they really 
meant to build the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, let us 
recall a few incidents the steady decline of Christendom 
from the Middle Ages to Bach's own day. 

In 1204 wa $ the Albigensian crusade, when the Pope, 
the chief official of the international body of Christians, 
'offered the feudal lords of Central and Northern 
France the same remission of sins as for Crusaders in 
the East 5 if they would do bloody work among a simple 
people whose chief crime was their denunciation of 
'worldly bishops and robber barons.' 1 

In 1380 there had been the ruthless suppression of 
the Florentine workers who had gained complete con 
trol of their republic, and in their executive existence 
of three years showed 'unsuspected qualities of wisdom 
and restraint.' 2 

There had been the burning of Huss in Bohemia in 
1415 and the foul dass-wars which followed j in 1498 
the execution of Savonarola at the instigation of Alex 
ander VI, the poisoner Pope, whose infamies gave the 
cue to all the blackguard priests and kings of the Renais- 

There had been the so-called Peasants' War which 

* Tkmidilce, MtMw&t Ettrep^ pp. 4 an -4, 
Sitmondi, History of tfo Itettm Rtp&lk$> Book V, 
*MacMawilPs Uf* and Tm*$ t Bag, &*&&> by VOkrl, pp. 
$a, 8Si ~ " 


had had its headquarters In Bach's own country of 
Thuringia, and was really a struggle by the masses 
of German folk to bring about the organization of life 
according to Christian principles. 1 And it is especially 
interesting for us to remember that Miihlhausen had 
been the people's stronghold in that war. The memory 
of the people ;s a long memory, and the tradition of 
freedom so nearly won would not be without its influ 
ence even in Bach's time the more so because acts of 
bloodshed and beastliness were not yet past. Bach was 
indeed able to sing in his civic cantata, 

Our peace by none's disturbed, 
Though war's alarms and strife 
Around us rage and swell; 

but no one knew how long it would be before the old 
devilments recurred. 

As recently as 1631 Magdeburg had been "stormed, 
plundered, and almost destroyed, amid scenes of horror 
which made the event noticeable in an age of lust and 
cruelty," 2 

Of course, these were but tales and memories in 
Bach's day, and the suggestion was probably made that 
c our days are not as the days of our fathers'; but as a 
matter of fact, the evil thing was still going on. We 
have already seen how Bach's brother declared for 

* Bag els, Ptawttf W&r m Gtrma&y. 

"A. W. HoEaad** Gtrmwy (Making of Nation* Series), p. 185. 


the popular cause. Here is another bit of history of 
close interest: 

c The restoration of Augustus to the throne by Russia 
had greatly embittered the Poles, and the Saxons fell 
frequent victims to assassination. Augustus in revenge 
sought to curb the spirit of the people by the most 
violent measures, and placed them totally under the 
control of the Jesuits. In 1724. the citizens of Thorn 
being compelled to bend the knee during a passing pro 
cession of Jesuits, by whom some innocent persons were 
treated with horrible cruelty, the populace revolted, 
rescued one of the prisoners, and destroyed part of the 
Jesuit college. The burgomaster Roesner, together with 
eight of the citizens, were in revenge sentenced to the 
block by a criminal court established for that purpose 
by the king. The executioner, tearing the heart from 
the palpitating bosom of one of the victims, exclaimed, 
"Behold, a Lutheran's heart! " n 

The Augustus referred to in the above quotation was 
the father of the King of Poland and Elector of Sax 
ony, to whom Bach subsequently dedicated the B minor 
Mass! However, at the Mtihlhausen stage of the com- 
poser*s development he had certainly not reached the 
point where that sort of dedication was possible. We 
have already seen him openly serving the Protestant 

Hkt* of G$rma&y) Bag, trati, II* 517, For 
Ida* of the tint than It k poIMt to glvt here the rnder may 
be referred to Feuchtwanger's famous novel, Jew $tf. 


cause, and musically serving the Pietists, the most 
earnest section of the Protestants. 

But he knew that not only Catholic officials, but 
Protestant officials also, had delivered the minds o 
Christians to suffering and stupidity as their bodies to 
torture and death. He knew that at Arnstadt young 
Treiber had not been allowed to live according to his 
own principles, or even to declare them openly, but had 
been obliged to lie in order to earn his bread. He knew 
that the great black cloud from Rome had been dis 
persed in places only to be followed by the frosts and 
hails of bourgeois Lutheran formalism. 

How could the composer pray for deliverance c calmly 
and trustfully' when Arnstadt was only a few miles 

Even in the 'free city' of Miihlhausen the people 
were no longer free to elect their own government* 
but must content themselves with proclamations which 
oiled them with specious words of freedom and 'evan 
gelical Christianity/ reproving all 'greed and self-seek 
ing/ while in fact they continued to be governed by 
just such burghers as made the town safe for greedy 
and self-seeking men. 

Pietism certainly made a good stand there. For sev 
enteen years Dean Frohne had stood fast by the popu 
lar cause in the narrow theological sphere which was 
all tibat remained of highest lt,f e for enslaved and re 
volting spiritsj and the persistence of even the theory 


of freedom in words of obscure symbolism was worth 
something. It stirred people with a vague sense of their 
lost and vanishing rights, and did something to ward off 
further aggression in the way, for instance, that Chris 
tian theory was not without influence in modifying 
factory conditions in England a hundred years later. 

Year by year, we are told, 'pietism gained a broader 
foothold among the German people. 31 That does not 
merely mean that the uneducated German masses pre 
ferred one sort of subtle religious theory to another 
sort. It means that the theory was, in their minds, an 
expression of material need and hope. 

When first the pietist movement started, its full im 
plications were not realised by orthodox Lutherans, and 
there was little or no opposition to it. It was only when 
the theory was 'carried out vigorously in practice that 
the opposition began.' However, the bourgeoisie had 
already learned the unwisdom of direct attack; it made 
things too uncomfortable for themselves. But what can 
not be easily overthrown by frontal attack may often 
be spoiled by flanking movement or strategem, if men 
are willing and can afford to wait, and especially if the 
position to be taken is held only by simple, honest, and 
gentle people, 

So, nine years before Bach's move to Mtihlhausen, 
Archdeacon Eilmar had been brought into the place j 
and, i& his attack upon the principles preached by 

Back* I, 35$. 


Frohne, the newcomer was openly approved by some 
of the municipal authorities. Eilmar advocated in theol- 
ogese what the Duke of Weimar said more bluntly a 
little later on. The aristocratic enemy of the people said 
that they 'were not to reason under pain of correction. 5 
The traitor parson said that it was 'heretical to pray for 
special enlightenment whenj reading the scriptures.' As 
Spitta remarks, 'this was certainly the standpoint of 
orthodoxy to which they [the Lutherans] had been 
driven to subscribe by the struggle. The first principle 
of Lutheranism was already lost to them; the church 
was to them almost as to the Catholics, something per 
fect and divine, whose means of grace her children need 
only receive passively, and whose ministers considered 
themselves as the bearers of a divine official gift which 
was perfectly independent of their moral conduct j while 
pietism, on the contrary, strove to develop afresh the 
fundamental idea of Protestantism.' 1 

It is a perennial story, and we still have it with us. 
Organizations are slowly developed by the people with 
a view to their own welfare j but the officials engaged 
to administer them grow to regard themselves as a su 
perior folk, and the organizations as existing for their 
own peculiar benefit From that moment control of such 
organizations is very easily acquired by the very tyranny 
against which they were formed* 

At Mtlhlhaiiseii the enemies of the people did not 


quite so easily undermine the reformed church. Popular 
feeling was too strongly in favour of Frohne for Eilmar 
to gain a quick victory. The open dispute between the 
elderly dean and the young archdeacon was referred, 
not to an, ecclesiastical authority, but to the town coun 
cil. That in itself bears witness to a strong tradition of 
popular government, and showed that the representa 
tives of the people were regarded as sovereign, even 
though the dispute was wrapped up in theological 
phraseology. But the council no longer consisted of men 
who were chosen for their love of 'justice and right 
eousness, 7 their hatred of 'greed and self-seeking.' So 
Eilmar got no positive reproof, even though the atti 
tude of the public was so definitely declared that the 
reactionaries dared not blame Frohne, There ensued 
the humbug of a 'moderate order. 7 Both parties were 
to 'refrain from controversy. 7 Thus it was suggested 
that in some obscure way Frohne was at least as culpable 
as his adversary. 

Of course the trouble broke out again. All such 
troubles do. Eilmar was there chiefly to keep them 
alive. But the burghers had to wait for Frohne's death, 
when they proceeded at once to put the other man in 
his place. That, however, was later> after Bach had dis 
appeared from the scene. 

For the musician the dispute was probably the part 
ing of the ways. His creative power, and therefore Ms 
inmost feeMng$> were with the j>ieti$te His uaeiyns of 


livelihood, like young Treiber's, was at the disposal 
of those who were opposed to everything the pietists 
stood for. Once we understand that fact we can see 
why Spitta and others have so often failed in! a proper 
interpretation of the master's works, even when correct 
in their estimate of his aesthetic values. Thus, though 
the biographer could not understand why Bach's Rath- 
wechsel Cantata took on such original emotional ex 
pressions, he did most wonderfully gauge its artistic 
tendency: he felt the nature of the prayer for deliver 
ance ^from the multitude of the wicked/ even though he 
did not see how Bach himself was encompassed by that 
very multitude. He regarded the music as a ^failure of 
the highest psychological interest' because he was almost 
entirely concerned with Bach's personal psychology as 
artist, and omitted to consider the greater psychologi 
cal forces* which affect even the greatest artists* May it 
not be, indeed, that the greatest artists owe their extra 
power, not only to their greater industry and skill as 
craftsmen, but also to an increased susceptibility to the 
mass-psychology of their time? 

So, when Bach's biographer instinctively connected 
that choral prayer for deliverance with the deepest ut 
terances of the master the music of ttxe Crucifixtts in 
the B minor Mas and at the same time declared it to 
be a failure of the highest psychological interest, his 
pwzlement arose becatise he did not understand how 
tfee Cnidfedon WES something more than an historical 


fact or a mystical symbol that it was indeed a recur 
rent reality for all the truest Christians from the thir 
teenth century onwards. 

Bach as an artist did exactly what the masses of 
Christendom had done he typified the gentle man 
who was willing to suffer for the general welfare and 
for truth. 

His music reveals where his inmost sympathies were 
in that particular dispute. Now let us try to understand 
how he came to be in dispute with the leader of the 

Already, it appears, he had had trouble regarding 
the music at Frohne's own church of St Blasius. We 
know that Bach's genius sought an enlargement and 
extension of religious feeling in flights beyond the 
average understanding. That music had for its objective 
the goal towards which Frohne was striving along an 
other channel} but the parson, drily ethical perhaps, 
was unable to see it. 

We have learned how, during the decay of vocal 
polyphony, the organ was introduced into churches to 
buttress up the failing musical structure j how in time 
it became a mechanical device, serving at first to hide 
the feet that the people were no longer singing for the 
joy they had in the diversity of Christian unityj and 
finally how the instrument usurped the place of the 
popular singing, making automatic antiphony to the 
official sentences of the priest 


In the high tide of Protestant revolt the people once 
again took possession of the musical parts of the church 
service, employing their own folk songs with such reli 
gious words as seemed to declare the reality of Chris 
tianity. Thus many German folk-songs had become 
hymn-tunes j and Bach, like other organists of Protes 
tant faith, used the instrument for the purpose of giving 
to those songs the practical support of accompaniment 
and sensual warmth of harmony. A proportion of the 
congregation, with that instinctive harmonic sense which 
seems to be possessed by a few in any singing crowd, 
probably followed the bass and groped about for middle 
parts. They may not have been capable of much more 
than thatj but at the same time they would be no more 
willing to hand over all their function as singers to the 
musical officials than the other communal elements of 
worship to the clerical officials. But that was not the 
whole of the difficulty, or a solution of the problem for 
Frohne and Bach might have been possible. 

Bach's training and integrity as a musician were 
bound up with an elaborate technic, while the pietists 
were simple people to whom such technic was almost a 
foreign tongue, and sounded like meaningless display} 
but in this matter I think Bach had the deeper truth 
on his side. 

The original polyphony of the Catholic Church had 
been BO mere device of musical craftsmanship, but the 
natural expression of an intelligent and cultured com- 


munity wherein every member was alive in separateness, 
necessarily obliged to preserve the order which gave 
unity to the mingled parts, and sharing in the increase 
of joy and richness which so many well disciplined in 
dividualities contributed to the whole. In that way the 
music reflected the finest political ideas of the old 

Bach himself was the culmination of a prolonged 
effort made by professional musicians to develop a like 
means of expression in the service of the reformed 
church. But there were at least two important differ 
ences between the old and the new polyphony. Cath 
olic polyphony had been grafted upon the peopled own 
songs and was essentially vocal- By the time that 
Protestantism had become sufficient of a power to re 
quire its own music, economic conditions had caused 
the arts to be developed in the interests of the bour 
geoisie. The popular origin and associations of the arts 
wwe less evident. Musical polyphony had passed from 
the simpler vocal stage into more elaborate and diffi 
cult instrumental forms* 

Even so, every notable development of Bach's cre 
ative genius was in the nature of a step towards the 
people not to the people as tihey were, alas I but to the 
people as they would have been If their musical oppor 
tunities had been equal to their masonic opportumties 
to the thirteenth century. That imtursJ tendenusy of Bad* 
the pofmJbr need tad iwctoto^iig crop tip 


continually throughout his career. It shows itself even 
in so unexpected a direction as his specifications and pro 
posals for the improvement of organs. He wished to 
make the instrument less o a dominating factor in the 
religious service, more of a communal convenience and 
support. 1 Other details of that same tendency are the 
master's passion for the people's own tunes, and his 
treatment of solo instruments, not only in the concertos, 
but in association with arias. These are matters which 
we shall consider in some detail later on. Here only to 
recognize the general tendency of his art as an expres 
sion of the minds of free folk in communal relationship. 
It may be that his efforts were instinctive rather than 
conscious j but it is none the less obvious to the student 
of musical history, and its very unconsciousness would 
make it in some ways the more significant. 

However, to have effected a real and fruitful rela 
tionship with simple people of strong faith but un 
developed aesthetic capacity was practically impossible. 
For that it would have been necessary that the artist 
should have been aware of historical and political prob 
lems beyond the ability of man then to gather together j 
necesaary also that he should renounce a great part of 
W$ own skill as musical craftsman, and any musician 
who has trial to do that will know that there is no 
harder ta$fc* 

To Frofane and most of Ms pietist congregation Bach 


may have seemed a stubborn maker of music who 
thought more of his own doings than of the simple and 
straightforward worship of God. To Bach the matter 
probably seemed more of a dispute between an ig 
norant and sometimes fanatical majority, and a cultured 
and sympathetic minority, the majority intent only on 
the most obvious forms of religious worship, the minor 
ity capable of appreciating those subtle moods of mysti 
cism for which music is the perfect medium. The 
minority may have seemed a little careless of the more 
definite ideas which informed the composer's religious 
music j but, on the other hand, the greater sympathy 
which they with their wider culture offered to the man, 
must have counted for a good deal, and might even 
have caused him to feel that they were not so far from 
his own religious position, though they were more or 
thodox in outward show* 

As for the musical ideas of the pietists in relation to 
Bach they were most likely completely Philistine. The 
exuberances of Bach upon the organ were for himself 
manifestations of divine impulse; the industry and skill 
which enabled him to use his material with freedom 
were proofs that his will was to give the very best serv 
ice in his power, while the polyphonic forms he used 
vouched for the perfect equality of all voices and parts 
in that service. But to many of the pietists Bach's ex 
uberances will have seemed proud vauntings of personal 
agility aad showmanship, and the vary forms wfaidi 


were intended to express Christian equality will have 
sounded like the pretentious pedantry of the superior 
person. To the bourgeois church-goers, on the other 
hand, their organist's skill must have seemed very satis 
factory evidence of the wisdom of their investment j it! 
proved the excellence of their artistic judgment, while 
the sounds he made in their more leisured and cultured 
ears were as spiritual oils working upon a good mental 
digestion and leathern conscience. 

Not even the most devoted admirer of Bach's art 
can fail to sympathise with people who want to sing 
their songs straight through, without having to wait 
between each line for an organ flourish, or between each 
verse for an organ interlude threads and tapestries of 
music beyond the understanding of hard-worked peo 
ple. Not even the most skilled contrapuntist will fail 
to understand that a simple and primitive musical taste 
must absorb the full joy of a single melodic line before 
it can begin to find pleasure in a web of polyphony. 

We must also remember that the recurring opposi 
tion between artists and puritans is almost entirely due 
to an evil economic relationship which leads most artists 
to accept service with people who can afford to pay 
them well, people who are likely to associate their artis 
tic pleasures with other less healthy luxuries. There in 
evitably arises in the minds of poorer men a feeling of 
contempt for artiste who, however unwillingly, are 
fsnictioning a$ partsitesj and a feeling of resentment 


however unintentional, because poverty is depriving 
them of an important educational right. 

Furthermore, artists working in a parasitical relation 
ship are bound to produce works, not only limited in the 
range of their appeal, but limited in their aesthetic 
value. It seems hard to believe that in the case of Bach. 
It seems hard for any living musician to believe that a 
nobler music could exist 3 but it is not unreasonable to 
think that if the psychological atmosphere of Bach's 
time had been less heavy with the dull thunder of the 
people's suppressed anger, the master's own spirit would 
have been proportionately invigorated. 

As it was he was expressing ideas akin to those of 
the stunted majority of the poorest Such an artist is in 
the unfortunate position of a workman whose only pos 
sible employers have an idea of life which depends on 
the continuance of bad conditions of a workman whose 
work is not wanted by those who would, if they were 
decently educated, most appreciate it and benefit 
from it. 

Beethoven in that position took his employer's money 
and called him an ass. Bach made a fight, but finally 
dkl what Wagner and others have done in a like case 
took service with the enemy* 

We have BOW reached the moment in his career when 
he made that change, withdrawing from a public service 
which had become impotsible except for men of qwxotic 
or deipcsiWe Mad* The matter decided to take 


service where, if he could not express the deepest feel 
ings of his time for men who in any case were unable 
to make use of his work, he could at least preserve 
his own integrity as artist, and perhaps cherish a secret 
flame the flame which had burned so brightly in the 
days when Protestantism blazed up against the betrayal 
of Catholicism, or even the steadier flame which had 
lighted all Western Europe when Catholic meant, not 
Roman and official, but international and popular. 

Bach did succeed in cherishing that flame to the end 
of his days. What Spitta calls a 'predilection for dark 
and deeply moved conditions of the souP was not a per 
sonal thing at all. It was due to the sultry mental at 
mosphere of the time. It was an inevitable expression 
wrung from the artist against the tendency of his own 
naturally exultant nature. 

Wolf, the song-writer, said that *the true test of 
greatness in a composer is, Can he exult? ' But it is 
equally a test of greatness in the sense of largehearted- 
ness (and unless the word carries that significance in 
relation to art it is valueless) that a composer be true to 
the reality of his life and time. So, in the words of his 
biographer, *the fear of possible danger became deep 
ened with Jiim* in the choral prayer for deliverance 
from the Rathwecksel cantata, 'Into the agony of a naiad 
totmaated to the last degree by terror and distress' 

Si&ee popular Christianity failed, that agony, equally 
a capacity for joy, ha$ been a part of the mentality 


of every artist who has been deeply sensitive of feeling 
and fearless of intellectual realism. Those artists whose 
sensitiveness outweighed their capacity for imaginative 
joy Botticelli and Dowland, for examples subsided 
into melancholy and silence. Those artists whose per 
sonal virility maintained a healthier emotional balance 
Dante, Bach, Blake, Beethoven found symbolical 
ways of suggesting the realities which most men feared 
or denied. 

Had Bach been incapable of such intellectual realism, 
or had he failed to find adequate symbolic forms for its 
expression, he would have been of no greater distinction 
than his son, Philip EmanueL The son's ability to adapt 
himself to Renaissance culture proved to be readier than 
the father's j but the very ability so to adapt himself was 
proof of a less sensitive mind, amore superficial attitude 
to the deepest things of life. It was John Seb^stianV 
will to look facts in the face, probe them to the core, 
and then find some means of expressing them from 
skin to spirit, even though they carried implications 
which were lost, or ignored, or hated, by the majority 
of cultured people it was such a combination which 
made him the greatest artist of his ownevjl day, and 
perhaps the greatest artist who ever livecOt is also that 
mine combination which made his general behaviour 
In Me rational, though to the pietists he may have 
seemed a traitor, and to the orthodox a fanatical old 


Considering howl he maintained his inner veracity to 
the end of his life, considering his moderate capacity 
for work involving discreet drudgery, and considering 
his domestic responsibilities, few will doubt that his line 
of action was right. He derived little material benefit 
and less renown than many who were vastly inferior to 
him; and in the double intellectual life which he pur 
sued to the end of his days he can have found little 
understanding or friendship probably only that of his 
second wife. He had a certain range of social acquaint 
ance including Eilmar himself, but no friend with 
whom he could discuss in open words the closed 
thoughts he was for ever hinting in his music, 

His cantata for the change of council had relation 
to the dispute which was rending the whole community 
of MUhlhausen. None of them understood that. Those 
who praised it for its artistic qualities did not know that 
its spirit and intention were popular and pietist. It was 
written in the interests of men who were not sufficiently 
mentally developed to enjoy it, who regarded it with 
indifference, as an artist's conceit, or even as a work of 
the devil. 

So he resigned his position. 

However, the manner of his resignation was not as 
; from Arnstadt There, where pietism was hated and 
orthodox Lutheraaism supreme, he had treated his em 
ployers with contempt. At Miihlhausen, where Frohne 
remained in control, supported by the love of the pieti$t 


masses of the people, the musician resigned with expres 
sions of gentle goodwill and even regret. He contented 
himself with pointing out that certain musical difficul 
ties had arisen which proved to be impossible of adjust 
ment. Even after his departure he continued to be 
responsible for the restoration of the organ he had 

And so he went to Weimar to take menial service 
with a Grand Duke. 


was now out of the fray for a time. 
Such an engagement as he had taken 
with the Grand Duke of Weimar was 
generally associated with personal and domestic service. 
There are several instances of such association in the 
records of the Bach family. One member of the family 
had been engaged as 'artist and musician' at the Abbey 
of Gandersheim, an institution where the arts had been 
fostered during the dark ages, as witness the plays of 
Roswitha the nun. In the agreement concerning that 
appointment Nicholas Ephraim Bach was named as a 
^lackey.' His annual wage was to be twenty dollars, 
with two liveries, travelling coats and stockings, and a 
weekly allowance of twenty groats for food. Later on 
he was promoted to be cup-bearer and then butler, in 
which final condition of eminence he was set over the 
abbey servants, and took charge of their artistic and 
musical education. 

Another Bach had been c court~lackey and oboe- 
r/ Yet aaotker, very near to Sebastian in point of 
i so e^xteotly in bondage that his employer 


able to refuse him leave of absence that he might visit 
his children who lived at a distance, even though he 
offered to leave a deputy in charge of the organ. 

Such had been the conditions of musico-domestic 
service for the earlier generations of Bachsj and it is 
clear that the conditions were still of some indignity in 
the time of the greatest member of the family. In Wei 
mar the burgomaster 'himself served the Duke in the 
menial office once filled by Bach's grandfather. 5 

Some of the composer's biographers try to ease our 
thoughts of his position by praising his employer j but 
it is hard to harmonise the circumstances of Bach's life 
there with such praise. 

The Duke was something of a religious fanatic even 
in his orthodoxy. One of the things recorded in his 
honour is a sermon which he preached at the age of 
eight; another, the assiduity he showed in arranging 
special religious training for the 'lower classes.' But he 
would not allow his subjects to meet together for their 
own religious worship 5 and when appointing a preacher 
he made sure that the man would expect no freedom 
of expression. The Duke demanded a Lutheran uni 
formity as uncompromising as that of the most rigid 
Roman authority. He required 'universal assent to the 
dogmatic proposition that the gifts of even unconverted 
ministers were saving and effectual by virtue of their 
office.' He caused points of religious difference to be 
narrowly investigated by the scholars of Jena (the uni- 


versity whence young Treiber had been expelled be 
cause he demanded the right to think freely) ; after such 
investigation the Duke announced 'in a full and par 
ticular rescript how he would have them decided.' 1 

Of course, all this religious care and severity had for 
its ultimate object the political and economic control of 
the people who lived in the duchy. Members of the 
duke's own class were allowed plenty of latitude. He 
himself had in his time kept a court-fool and held hunts 
and carnivals, although such festivities involved incon 
venience and even suffering for the peasants and work 
ers. Moreover, he maintained the closest relation with 
'the pleasure-loving court of Weissenfels'j and the 
pleasures of the German courts in those days were not 
exactly in the nature of puritan picnics. 2 

Even in Bach's time the duke enjoyed occasions of 
extravagant and luxurious display. The composer made 
his first secular cantata for a, festival when c the guests 
$at down to a banquet at tables set amid exotic shrubs, 
cypress, orange, almond, and myrtle, whose fragrance 
turned a winter's evening to summer. 5 * 

Of the Duke's appearance we are told that he had a 
sharply cut and meagre face with a retreating forehead, 
a large prominent nose and a somewhat projecting chin. 

Into the service of that petty tyrant Bach entered, 
and held a subordinate position as player upon clavier, 

^pitta, I, 377- 

" Menzel, III, 1 7 onwards. 

"Terary, $aeh) p. log, 


organ, or fiddle, as might be required, under Drese the 
capellmeister. The livery he wore was that of a Hei- 
duck, a costume not unlike that donned by the so-called 
Hungarian bands favoured in London society during 
later Victorian times. 

Despite all the Duke might dictate, however, there 
was evidently a truly religious life in the town of Wei 
mar itself. 

At the ducal court Italian music was in vogue. At 
the town church the organist, Walther, was noted for 
his adherence to the peoples 7 own songs. We are told 
that between Walther and Bach there was at first friend 
ship and later division. It is easy to understand how two 
such men would be drawn together, and not hard to 
imagine how divergence might follow. 

Walther was in a position of comparative artistic 
freedom, and could continue to develop such power as 
he had in a truly original way. Bach was obliged to 
study the pleasures of his master, and for a time, any 
how, make the best case he could for the fashionable 
style of foreign music. The greater musician must have 
found it hard to maintain his integrity and excuse his 

However, having taken the service, Bach turned it 
as far as possible to his own advantage. A certain 
amount of heartless decorative music ht was obliged to 
make, as performer if not as composer j but there were 
ways of serving the great |x>wer within him, even at 


that court. He could develop his skill as an executive 
artist, and compose special music for his own instru 

The pieces he arranged and composed during the 
first years at Weimar are comparatively unimportant 5 
but the pains he then took with all matters relating to 
the organ affected the whole of his subsequent career. 
The course pursued by him in regard to the organ 
indicates a possible cause for the weakening of artistic 
sympathy between him and Walther. 

The chorale was the root and flower of Walther's 
musical conceptions} and the most noticeable thing in 
the music written by Bach during his years at Weimar 
is his neglect of the chorale. The people's songs, which 
had been the centre of his first musical thoughts, seem 
almost to have disappeared from his world. That is 
the more remarkable because of their original impor 
tance in the growth of organ music. 

Schweitzer tells us that 'the chorale was the teacher 
of the organists, leading them from the false and fruit 
less virtuosity of the keyboard to the true simple organ 
style. . , . It is an illustration of how an idea is in the 
end stronger than circumstances. Organ music did not 
come to perfection in Paris or in Venice, where every 
thing seemed to be in its favour, but among the poor 
cantors and schoolmasters of an impoverished country/ 

Popular song has always been the tap-root of musical 
is a certain idiomatic strength in the 


people's own songs which seems to give to composers 
more than personal powers of expression. In Germany, 
where the folk-song tradition was most steadily main 
tained by professional musicians, the best music was 
made. In Elizabethan England and Russia under the 
last Czars, where there were cultural gaps between the 
common people and the professional musicians, the lat 
ter were forced to borrow from the former a proper 
basis for their work. 1 

We have examined one of Bach's earliest attempts to 
decorate the popular song. Such an experiment stands 
to his later works as primitive Celto-Saxon decoration to 
thq finest expressions of Gothic. Beginning partly in a 
decorative instinct Bach, like the Gothic sculptors, re 
alised that with increased skill he could pass from 
decoration to real expression. The detail, as he devel 
oped it, was sometimes subtly connected, sometimes 
diffuse, but on the whole it tended to be more and more 
realistic. Masons and musicians revealed more and more 
vividly in their decorative schemes ideas which ex 
pressed details of the main purpose of the buildings 
and the songs. 

When the sculptors of the Renaissance passed from 
the service of the communes to the service of tyrants, 

*See the folk-song arrangements in the Fitzwilliam Virginals Book, 

and the music of Glinka, Borodin, Rimsky KorsakofF, and other modern 

Russians. Even the plunging anarch, Stravinsky, fumbles for the same 

source of life, while for lack of it the works of Striabine stretch out 

palely like hot-house growths. 


they passed from the service of life to the service of 
death from the decoration of common houses of joy to 
the decoration of tombs from a vampire-hearted class. 
The so-called Rebirth was devoted chiefly to the serv 
ice of Death. That is a matter of simple historic fact. 
With the end of the great period of cathedral building 
there was also an end of vulgar beauty and common 
incident in expressive sculptural detail. 

Later on a similar breakdown occurred in the art of 
music. With the depreciation of Gothic polyphony in 
favour of Italian monody there was a temporary end of 
the folk-basis for musical art. The passage from cathe 
dral building to coffin decoration has its exact parallel 
in the passage from happy music to sad music dis 
cussed in a previous chapter. The change is well ex 
pressed by the difference of feeling between the finest 
piece 'of thirteenth century music that we know 
*Sumer is icumen in' and Bach's despairing cry in the 
Rathwechsel cantata. 

Becoming one of the Duke of Weimar's menials, 
Bach entered an atmosphere opposed to everything that 
had been expressed by the German chorale. Decadent 
art there reigned supreme. The duke*s own palace was 
an example. Renaissance architecture offered a suitably 
dull exterior setting for the comparatively trivial musi 
cal thoughts of Corelli and Vivaldi. While, as Professor 
Terry remarks, *not one of the sanctuaries Bach served 


matched so ill with his art* as the garish baroque and 
bizarre chapel of the duke. 1 

However much of economic relief the new engage 
ment may have meant for Bach and his young wife, 
however much in the way of artistic opportunity he may 
have hoped for, the change cannot have been other than 
unpleasing to the artist who had recently been playing 
the music of the north German composers within the 
living walls of St. Blasius at Miihlhausen. Bach cannot 
have taken kindly to the foreign and superficial atmos 
phere. Though he ignored the chorale his early organ 
works of the Weimar period have less in common with 
the music of the Italian composers and more with his 
own native school. 

At the same time he did his best. He made transcrip 
tions of some Italian concertos. A comparison between 
them and his own original compositions of the Weimar 
period will be of interest, for the vital problem before 
Bach at that moment was whether he should become an 
original composer, or a court-confectioner of Italian 

The original compositions are far from flawless. 
Overlong pedal passages bespeak the development of 
the composer's personal virtuosity as executant rather 
than his sense of proportion as builder. Repetition of 
subject-matter proves his joy in lovely sound rather 

* Terry, p. 96. Illustrations of the Weimar buildings alluded to in 
his chapter may be otrnd at the end of Professor Terry's book. 


than his capacity to make that joy promptly commu 
nicable. Monotony of key indicates a certain lack of ad 
venturous spirit. A few bars towards the end of the 
C minor Fugue, for example, 1 can only be described as 
athematic meaningless emissions of sound. The mere 
flourish by way of ending the same fugue is as if the 
composer were attempting to discover a musical parallel 
for the pretentious flourishes of Renaissance decoration. 
The artificial nature of the climax and anti-climax in 
the Fugue in G major 2 is a sign of the will to use a lever 
while the fulcrum has not yet been discovered. 

Some of those faults derive less from the immaturity 
of the composer's own craftsmanship than from the 
exotic ideal of the Italian music for which he probably 
had to pretend admiration. On the other hand, the more 
conscious harmonic sense of the Italians, however lim 
ited its range, added a small detail to the musical tech- 
nic Bach inherited from the German tradition. Thus the 
long pedal passage at the beginning of the Prelude in 
G major is something more than a merely thematic 
statement, suggesting as it does the new vertical basis 
of music more pleasing to men who lived at the top of 
things, as well as the old horizontal conception which 
had been more pleasing to the communally-minded 

When Bach came to the fullness of his power he 

* Peter* Edition, IV 36 j Norello, II, 48. 

E<Htk)% IV> 9, bars 136 and foEowingj Novello, VII, So. 


worked both in the horizontal tapestry of polyphony 
and the vertical columns of homophonyj he mastered 
them both, and applied each to its own special and 
natural purpose. The more significant, therefore, that 
all his finest achievements prove his own preference, 
and the greater inherent virtue, of the earlier method. 

Should further evidence of the truth of that state 
ment be needed, the reader may be reminded of the 
efforts of Mozart, Beethoven, and Wagner, at the 
height of their powers, to recapture the craft of poly 

In the many-melodied style there is much more than 
a personal power. There is not only the sense of a mass 
of freely moving individuals, but also a sense of that 
greater unity which gives order to life, and greater 
freedom because of the order. There is furthermore a 
fascinating paradox; of the expected and the surprising, 
like to the changing formation of birds in flight, as the 
moving parts are modified and accommodated to each 

Reference has been made once or twice already to 
the parallel between the Gothic spirit in architecture 
and the polyphonic spirit in music. Both arrived at their 
finest expression in the heart of Christendom, the centre 
of Western Europe, even as the pseudo-Hellenic spirit 
of the Renaissance emanated from decadent Rome, and 
had its natural expression in prison-like forms of build- 


ing and the comparatively rigid forms of homophonic 

A glance at the Duke of Weimar's palace, the Wil- 
helmsburg, or the Gelbes Schloss, 1 before playing one 
of Bach's Vivaldi transcriptions will, I think, cause us to 
feel the relationship between them. The heavy earth- 
bound solidity of the architecture is punctuated by a 
multitude of identically shaped windows, secured by a 
number of identically shaped pilasters, an occasional 
puerile sign added by way of ornament, lank lettering 
to declare the private nature of the property, and an 
heraldic design to proclaim the pride of its possessor. 

All those things have their counterparts in the Italian 

The dull continuity of the sound is sometimes empty 
of defined theme. Thus, after the opening bars of the 
Vivaldi-Bach Concerto in D major 2 there is not a single 
noteworthy musical sentence. The first three bars estab 
lish an idea of heavy earth-bound dignity, after which 
the movement is punctuated by sequences which, having 
stated a frail semblance of figure, repeat it until it is 
threadbare, secure the piece by pilasters of monotonous 
chord, and overscribble the whole with the fussiness of 
the fiddler who first made and played it. 

At dose quarters It is the flatness of the masonry, 
and considered bar by bar the emptiness of the music, 

1 Terry, 

* No* i h <&e PMT8 Edition, 


which are most obvious. Seen from a distance, as a 
whole, both architecture and music are equally monoto 
nous because of the vacuous repetition of such features 
as they have. Such building is mere stone-piling, such 
sound mere note-spinning. They are masses which have 
no lifting power. They were not formed by the real 
need of the general life, and cannot carry our thoughts 
or feelings beyond themselves. Size of building and 
length of music were dictated beforehand j no growth 
of human life extended the walls, no aspiration threw 
up forms of architectural beauty, no inner pressure of 
the spirit of man caused lovely growth of sound from 
germinal phrase to inspiring climax. The whole func 
tion and end of the Wilhelmsburg is declared at a 
glance j the whole significance of the concerto-move 
ment in the first three bars. 

We are told that the concertos of Vivaldi had aston 
ished the Weimar court because of c the novelty of their 
style.' That is significant of their origin and purpose. 
They had no other function than to kill time more or 
less politely, and time is never to be killed by good 
works of art. If art-works have any heart, time is made 
more alive by them; if art-works are heartless they 
make us the more time-conscious. But from the period 
of the Renaissance until to-day, leisure-class art has 
had for its primary business the relief of boredom by 
helping to make people forgetful of time. Of course it 
has never succeeded in that object, for all capable artists 





have opposed such a conception of their work; but their 
opposition has not altered the fact. 

Nothing grows old so quickly as works produced for 
the sake of their novelty, and so soon as the art has been 
staled for its patrons, it has been discarded in favour of 
a later vogue. The shrewd tradesmen who make big 
successes in the art business have been those who made 
it their job to provide novelty at all costs, and always 
more of it. 

The art-tradesmen of the Renaissance achieved nov 
elty by ignoring the original expressive value of the 
arts, by ceasing to use them as a great common pos 
session, by degrading them to the level of personal pride 
the pride o the solitary rich possessor, the pride of 
the solitary clever technician. Builders were turned 
from the great common house with its one great room 
to the private and personal houses of men who de 
manded many rooms and many storeys ; and they signed 
them with their patrons' initials and heraldic designs 
instead of the common and more varied signs with 
which the earlier masons had enriched the whole life 
of their time. 

So, also, the men who made music for those who 
lived in big houses were turned from the great common 
songs of the people, and the polyphonic variety which 
the people had once learned to weave about such songs, 
and instructed to juggle foolishly with notes as a cir 
cus-clown would juggle more admirably with knives. 


After the multivarious life of the people had been 
excluded from the arts, skill and then reason faded 
out; musicians achieved unity of style by absence of 
original theme, builders by absence of original design. 
They made a virtue of flat empty surfaces because such 
served more effectively as backgrounds for personal 
posturing and pretentiousness. They had to acquire a 
sufficient skill in masonry and note-building to ensure 
temporary standing power for their works. Therein was 
their only right to the name of artists. It was a meaner 
dignity than the name of artisan in the Middle Ages. 
Judging by the disappearance of the music, and the 
weakness of a good deal of the building, especially as 
an active influence, even that right was often dis 
honestly won. 1 

Such was the art which was best liked by the ruling 
class, the patrons for musicians in Bach's Germany. 
That was the kind of service expected of our musician 
at Weimar, if he would make a success of his career. 

Behind Bach, however, and within him, was a great 
creative force against which he could no more prevail 
than Balaam could prevail against the angel. Bach's 
genius was the ass which kept him in the right way, even 
as he strove to follow up a more easy and profitable 
career. Let us consider the nature of that genius, and 
range it against his few parlour tricks. 

* Recall t^e case of rubble for stone- work discovered a few years &go 
when Wrm*$ 8t Paul's was I ua4 to fye insecure. 


The mass of a great Gothic building is actually more 
earth-bound than that of a Renaissance building by 
reason of the buttresses which secure it; but those but 
tresses appear to hold it down, not as the roots of a tree, 
but as if they were the anchorage of some monstrous 
air-ship. The character of Gothic lines is such that, from 
cottage gable to cathedral spire, the thoughts of the 
onlooker are carried upwards. It seems to say, Here we 
are on this earth of ours, and here we must stay; but 
what we can touch is not the whole of life; there above 
are rolling fires and floating worlds, blue rapture of 
space and wild wrath of cloud, the roofing of our home 
through which vanishes the smoke of our hearths, from 
which fall the water of life and the flash of death. 

Excluding all superstitions of a heaven beyond space, 
it is certain enough that not only important scientific 
discovery, but aesthetic imagination and other refine 
ments of the human mind have their birth and growth 
in star-gazing and sky-dreaming. 

The original and useful functions of Christian build 
ings were obvious, and could be taken for granted; but 
that was not enough. So long as Christian civilization 
was in a condition of healthy growth men were in a 
state of mental alertness, experimenting and exploring. 
Of that part of their characters the Gothic roofs are an 
architectural sign and symbol, straining into the most 
mysterious part of nature with the vision of artists and 
tlxe will of ^dentists* 


On the other hand, in Renaissance architecture the 
roof is a detail of apparent indifference. Those whose 
chief aim was material wealth, and political power to 
ensure that wealth, had no use for an expensive and 
useless struggle towards the sky. Galileo the scientist 
was imprisoned, Dante the artist accused of financial dis 
honesty by a usurious and simoniacal priesthood, and 
the people brought into a new form of slavery, at the 
same time that popular forms of architecture were dis 
carded. Those who feared to explore the facts of nature 
and the stimulating force of artistic imagination rejected 
the roof which shot up heavenward. A Renaissance roof 
was built against the climate, and that was all, with the 
amusing consequence that it promptly expressed the 
absurd and mean characters of its builders. When small 
it reminds one of the tiny hat of a music-hall comedian; 
when it swells into domes it looks bloated like the 
tumour on St. PauPs of London, or ridiculous like 
the pimple on the palace of Bach's master at Weimar. 

That meanness evidently struck some of the more 
pretentious Renaissance builders, so they occasionally 
indulged in an open-air gallery of gods on their house 
tops: gods skied there because they were not believed 
in, either as objective existences, or as symbols of influ 
ences friendly or hostile to those who lived beneath. 

The horizontal mass of the Wilhelmsburg pro 
claimed its indifference to anything beyond itself. Its 
proportions were settled before it was built. Its mood is 


that of men who have settled down down. But the 
proportions of even the homeliest gable cottage are up 
sweeping as to roof-line, and ^settled, inasmuch as the 
cottager used always to have the hope of future addi 
tions to house the growth of his family and wealth. 
That same sense of growth informed the noblest ex 
amples of Gothic building, and resulted in the infinite 
variety which is their most striking physical attribute. 
As for Christian tower and steeple think not only of 
their visible imaginative values, but also of the bell- 
play within them. Those belfries declare the rapturous 
excess of a common wealth which had moved the build 
ers to luxury and launched them into the last of the 
arts, the art of music. 

Roof is necessary. Pinnacles, towers, and steeples will 
only be added when life is so rich that men must spend 
their labour on lovely and needless things. Then, when 
every general idea has been symbolised in sculpture, 
detailed in painting, and explained in literary art, the 
overflow of rational hope and irrational joy must find 
irrational expression in rational form. That is why music 
is the last art to develop 1 in the uprise of civilizations, 
and the first art to suffer in their decline. 

However high the roof springs it is based on the 
foundations} and the more carefully the foundations are 
laid the higher the roof may rise. Likewise, however 
irrationally the music may flourish it originates in the 

1 Professor Fliiklers Petrie, The Revolutions of Civilisation. 


facts of life; and the more deeply the facts relate to a 
common human joy the more strongly the music may 

At first the music is but an emphasis of verbal expres 
sion, as colour-painting is at first the emphasis of graven 
outline and scriven word. But gradually the later arts 
gather strength until they culminate in a Giotto or a 
Bach. Then, in their final expression, colour and tone 
find emotional languages of their own} and they are 
able, not only to reinforce the ideas of the lines and 
words with which they are associated, not only to add 
ideas for which uncoloured line and spoken word are 
inadequate, but able to exist separately in their own 
loveliness of colour-scheme and instrumental music. In 
this last phase the two most delicate arts seem, like 
Gothic steeples, to strain into an impossible world 
seem to seek a condition of complete and impossible 
freedom, even as Ariel was for ever trying to escape 
from the humane service and intellectual discipline of 


Is there more toil? Since thou dost give me pains, 
Let me remember thee what thou hast promised 
Which is not yet performed me. 

How now, moody? 
What is't thou canst demand? 

My liberty. 



Before the time be out? No more. 

Stone bursts into fire in flamboyant tracery ; pictorial 
art into impressionism as in the paintings of Turner; 
poetry into music as in the verse of Poe; and music 
into air, in the spiritual flights or fugues, of Bach 3 and 
all these things have virtue so long as they have sub 
mitted to the necessary discipline and have joy in 
human service. 

Of all man's attempts to reach a purely spiritual con 
dition it is in the art of music that he has most com 
pletely succeeded; but even music cannot survive as a 
vital and intelligible art if it is continually and com 
pletely cut off from its original vocal associations. Baches " 
most spiritual flights in pure tone were possible because 
they sprang from an age-long tradition which was 
grounded in the songs of the people. The German cho 
rale was to the fugue what foundations and buttresses 
were to the cathedral belfry. So it is that people who 
have studied the vocal works of Bach, and their obvious 
and consistent connection with the chorale, will the 
more easily appreciate his instrumental works; whereas 
those who approach Bach through the ktter are placed 
at some disadvantage, and it is no uncommon thing to 
hear such people describe the instrumental music as 
a sort of glorified five-finger exercise* So it is; but they 
don't really see the glory, or the finger exercise would 
not occur to them* 


Recalling the rhythm of the windows around the 
Wilhelmsburg and its counterpart in the dull sequences 
of Vivaldi, we must remember that the main outlines 
of a fine Gothic building are not punctuated, but inter 
related by means of a network of subordinate structural 
lines, and embroidered with a mass of detail which en 
riches the whole, but does not mean much to an on 
looker who may be regarding the building from a 
distance. So also a Bach fugue is crosswoven with the 
structural lines of its voices, and enriched by a mass 
of detail which a mere listener does not hear. The virtue 
of the unseen carving in the building, and of the un 
heard phrases in the fugue, lies in the fact that the oae 
was chiselled by the creative hand of a common work 
man, the other intended for an ordinary chorus-singer 
or orchestral player. They are arts for doers, rather 
than for onlookers and listeners. 

But human degradation was the key-note of the 
Duke of Weimar's religion. The majority of perform 
ers of music in the Italian tradition were enslaved as 
the common builders were enslaved in the erection of 
Renaissance architecture. If the mere acceptance of 
labour as mason or fiddler in such work is not a sign of 
degradation, the activity will itself ensure a degrading 

Renaissance workmen were at first not allowed, and 
were finally incapable of, the imaginative effort neces 
sary for the production of a considerable mass of inter- 


isting detail. Architect and soloist might still retain 
;elf-respect as artists, but not the common masons and 

The best that could be done by the architects of 
:hose Weimar palaces was to pick out the least degraded 
D their masons to sculpt an heraldic design which he 
has done with all the fat nastiness of Renaissance ideal 
ism and perhaps copy the figures of a few Greek gods, 
whose forms he could not freshly create any more than 
he could imagine the divine powers of which they were 
the symbols. 

A similar degradation was overtaking the rank and 
file of musicians in Bach's time. They were no longer 
taking part in the varied equality of polyphony. They 
were now required to play turn-turn accompaniments 
while a few favoured creatures disported themselves in 
solo parts. The sport was a vain one: vain in that it 
developed mental attributes which have often made 
even distinguished musicians the mock of sane menj 
vain also, inasmuch as the majority of concertos and 
pieces in which there are predominant parts for soloists, 
vocal or instrumental, are generally empty of deep pur 
port, often mere noise and nothingness. 

The curse of such solo-vanity has blasted the musical 
art of Italy to this day. For lack of the deeper issues 
Which arise in the clash and comradeship of communal 
effort, Italian music since the days of Palestrina has 
been almost xmifonnly dull and petty> except where it 


has reached out towards the average mind in certain 
vulgar and sensational operas. The affectedly higher 
forms of art have been tolerable only as means of per 
sonal display. When we listen to an artist like Kreisler 
playing the stuff we may be seduced into thinking it fine 
because of the personality of the player and the sen 
suous beauty of the sounds he makes. As transcribed by 
Bach for keyed instruments we are left to ourselves to 
make of it what we can. The German master has given 
the show away. 

Had Bach wanted to expose to his duke the meanness 
of the Italian music he could not have taken a more 
likely course. Had the duke been a true music-lover 
he would have realised how little such music had to say 
as compared with the pieces which his servant was still 
drawing from the original German fount. But that sort 
of master doesn't want music to say anything as a rule. 
Art which had said things in the past, and especially 
popular art, had generally been rude to the governing 
class. As Henry VIII suppressed monasteries and mys 
tery plays, as a traitor-priesthood obliterated with 
whitewash the wall paintings of artisans, so the Duke 
of Weimar banished the native music of Germany: it 
was inevitably associated with ideas prejudicial to his 
own authority. Much better for him and his like a fat 
amiable fussing of sound. 

Bach even transcribed concertos by the duke's own 
. They are numbers eleven and sixteen of those 


usually attributed to Vivaldi, and are little worse than 
their models. 

Only a slave-driving or an enslaved brain could have 
been content with that prison-like or factory-like aspect 
of Renaissance wall, broken by primitive symbol, 
branded with master's initials, and secured architectur 
ally by methods of the mere copyist. And the degrada 
tion which accompanies slavery is obvious in the poverty 
of skill employed. The amazing skill which sent Gothic 
vaulting curving like arrows may be compared with the 
lesser skill needed for the laying of Renaissance entab 
lature upon shaft j the amazing skill which sent those 
vari-coloured threads of melody flying together in eas 
ily disciplined association with the lesser skill needed 
for the planning of figuration over chord. 

Such signs of slavery and degradation are evident 
in the flat walls of the Duke of Weimar's palaces, in 
the empty circles on either side of the doorway of the 
Gelbes Schloss, and in the debased Ionic capitals of its 
pillars. No less of enslavement is to be found in the 
flat dullness of the Vivaldi music with its petty theme 
and narrow range of chord structure* 

That Bach suffered real slavery, temporary degrada- 
ion of his own natural power, is evident in his Vivaldi 
though perhaps it is not easy for the 
of people to understand that* It was as if a 
letter write* were condemned to the nuking of 


pothooks, a skilled joiner to the chopping of firewood, 
a skilled electrician to the stoking of furnaces. 

Compare the petty invention and degrading copy- 
work of the Vivaldi transcriptions with even an early 
work of Bach's own. It is as if we turned from the 
Wilhelmsburg and faced Chartres cathedral j as if we 
glanced from the headlines of a child's copybook to an 
illuminated thirteenth century missal. Flatness and ten- 
tativeness and monotony have given place to variety, 
fullness, mastery, and surprise. And even as the monot 
ony of the Italian offered no real rest, so the surprise 
of the Gothic music creates no disturbance of feeling. 

Vivaldi repeated his sequences till they were thread 
bare, though his figures were seldom worth a second 
hearing, much less a fifth and sixth 5 and it is hard to 
say of his themes which are chief, which derivative. 

Sequential treatment was an important part of Bach's 
decorative method also. In his early works there are 
sequences of figure which are unrolled nearly to the 
length of a Vivaldi example. Even so they do not make 
the same monotonous effect, because the detail is more 
distinguished and yet subordinated to the work as a 
whole. They often spring out of the main subjects, but 
never pretend to be a main subject. They are decorative 
fragments, incidental but germane to the development 
of the main thought. 

The Italian musician's sequences make an effect as 
of persons painted in a picture several times over that 


they may not be overlooked in their mediocrity. The 
German master's sequences are as of rhythms in certain 
subordinate details of a picture a series of clouds or 
a chain of distant mountain-tops. When Bach treated 
the more essential parts of his musical structure in a 
sequential way he rarely extended the passage beyond a 
double sequence; if a third statement is begun it is 
generally turned into a fresh channel before it is com 

Bach's fugues had the same relation to his chief 
works that Beethoven's bagatelles had to his. Bach's 
earliest fugues were trial flights for the soaring work 
which lay before him. His later fugues were generally 
joy-rides, for love of the sensation of musical flight, 
and love of the skill he had in the management of his 
flying machine j a few of them were descents into hell. 

From the prison of Renaissance artifice Bach escaped 
by means of his art into the living air. His art re 
mained Gothic in spirit even when he tried to carry out 
his master's will. His great contemporary, Handel, hav 
ing a more pliable genius, was able to turn easily from 
German polyphony to Italian homophonyj but his art 
suffered inevitable degradation when he accepted the 
meaner task, and Handel never acquired the ultimate 
skill or the depth of Bach. 

One of the results of the change was an impoverish 
ment of harmony. The very art which professed to have 
a harmonic rather than a melodic basis proved itself in 


that, as in other ways, inferior to the Gothic spirit which 
it supplanted in fashionable favour. But the variety of 
Bach's chords is as striking as his variety of form in 
other respects. 

The dull pillars of chord in the Vivaldi concertos 
were piled because the musician knew beforehand ex 
actly what they were going to be. He chose his chords 
and raised his work upon them, as the builder of the 
Gelbes Schloss had known what an Ionic column was, 
and copied it over and over again to the best of his 
ability. The poor Renaissance architect had but three 
varieties of column to choose from 5 and, curiously 
enough, the Italian used chiefly three chords, two at a 

However, though the architectonic balance main 
tained by Bach is even more satisfactory than that of 
Vivaldi, Bach's chords, like the pillars of a Gothic 
cathedral, happened as and when they were required by 
the general structure; and the master did not know 
what they were going to be beforehand, Gothic pillars 
flowered in the multi-variety of their capitals j Bach's 
chords by reason of the comparative freedom of his 
parts. In that way they have the inherent life alluded 
to by Forster when he describes the characters of Dick 
ens' novels: *the intensity of his observation of individ 
ual humours and vices had taken so many varieties of 
imaginative form. Everything in Chwz&lewit had in 
deed grown under treatraeat, as will commonly be the 


case in the handling of a man of genius, who never 
knows where any given conception may lead him, out of 
the wealth of resource in development and incident 
which it has itself created.' 

Exactly similar was the art of Bach. Sometimes he, 
like the Italians, used his chords in couples deliberately 
tonic and dominant, or tonic and subdominant. We 
see an example of that in the episode figure of the early 
D major prelude for organ. Occasionally, indeed, a 
single chord contented him, for a short space, as at the 
climax of the D major Fugue. But generally speaking, 
the fact that Bach did not know what chords he would 
hear, until the weaving of the parts informed him, re 
sulted in a much richer harmonic texture. 

Later on he deliberately explored the possibilities of 
the harmonic basis of music. The Chromatic Fantasia 
offers an example of such exploration. Then he discov 
ered a harmonic wealth of which the Italians had no 
conception; but even so he discovered less than he had 
already lighted on by accident in the ordering of his 

During his earlier period as composer, and in the first 
flush of his creative power, he was mainly intent on 
musical expression, and used the traditional method 
Which cost least conscious effort. In that phase, and in 
all feis best work, harmony was not in itself an expres*- 
factor so much as a discipline,, enabling him to 
the <Ui:ere&dfcs arising between his parts, as they 


pursued their comparatively free ways in the communal 
music. To have given greater latitude to the harmonic 
principle would have left the music at the autocratic 
mercy of the one of the parts, the others being disci 
plined by the harmony into accord with that single part. 
That is what the Italians were doing. 

On the other hand, to have neglected altogether the 
discipline of harmony would have meant anarchy as be 
tween the parts, so hindering the attainment of that 
euphony which is generally regarded as the mark of 
the noblest works of man. That is what many self- 
conscious modern composers are doing. 

A conception which admits the need for real living 
expression in art, necessitates the discipline of harmony. 
A conception which admits also the maximum of free 
dom for every individual engaged, prevents the disci 
pline from becoming tyrannical and stultifying. 

Euphony in the Christian arts persisted so long as 
Christian principles were accepted in life. That euphony 
pervaded all that Bach wrote from first to last. 

Renaissance artists sought pleasure for their goal, 
even when they held by the conventional Christian 
symbols. For Christian artists, even of Renaissance 
period and training men like Botticelli, Byrd, and 
Milton Christian ideas and realities were the goal, 
pleasure but an incident. 

Pleasure was the only purpose of the Vivaldi con 
certos, and of the ducal court which preferred them, 


however religious the duke may have wished to be. 
Apart from the sensuous beauty of the music, the chief 
interest of those pieces depends upon the cleverness of 
the solo-fiddler, and not upon the musical phrases, or 
upon their emotional significance which is but small. 

The instrumental solos of Bach had a deeper value, 
partly because they originated in a vocal style which 
was associated with the choral will and the straightfor 
ward tunes of the people; and were developed upon 
communal principles, even when the medium was the 
autocratic organ. Occasionally it appears as if Bach 
were drawing attention to the skill of the performer, 
especially in the pedal work of his early organ pieces j 
but it is clear that he avoided the dull vanity of the 
Italians, by making virtuosity itself a means of humor 
ous expression. Even as he exerted his skill he laughed 
at himself. 

Vivaldi and his fellows had settled down to a cold 
and calculating game of skill. Bach roused himself for 
a circus performance. Thus in his C major Prelude he 
capered on the organ like a clown on a dancing elephant, 
and for the fugue that follows he provided a subject 
with a quick octave leap, as sudden and as merry as the 
winking of an eyelid. 

Nor is Bach's superiority to his own skill the only 
proof of the superiority of that skill. He does things 
of HM&n virtuosity which no Italian would or could 
have attempted, either at that time or since. Vivaldi ad- 


ventured like an elderly man learning to ride a push- 
bike: he got up a moderate speed and then kept to the 
by-roads. Bach went everywhere, along high roads and 
by-roads, up hill, down dale, and even (as we shall see 
later on) into my lady's chamber. In the tenth bar from 
the end of the C major organ Prelude he plunged reck 
lessly into a thornbush of dissonance 3 in the thirty- 
first bar of the same piece he squeezed F against E and 
D against C sharp with all the assurance of the adven 
turer, and all the gaiety of a medieval mason carving 
a gargoyle. 

Such was the kind of music which Bach made within 
the walls of the Wilhelmsburg for a prince whose reli 
gious will was law for his clergy, and whose musical 
will was for second-rate concertos from Italy. 

Doubtless from the duke's point of view the Italian 
school was good because it achieved unity of style and 
an affectation of refined intellectuality without express 
ing Anything definite, and therefore without expressing 
anything dangerous. Unlike those popular chorales it 
was entirely removed from the realities of life. 

The young organist may have tried to prove the goad 
faith of his service by making those transcriptions, and 
even by temporarily abjuring the use of the chorale in 
his own works. But we cannot help suspecting that the 
dute looked with some suspicion upon the original 
works, full of revolt as they were against all that the 
Vivaldi music sigpnifiecL 


Bach was obliged to do his lackey-service j but his 
own fertile and turbulent genius was too strong to ac 
cept dictation from an authority which was without 
authenticity. The early organ works of Bach are full 
of faults, though we should scarcely be aware of the 
fact unless we had his later works to judge by as full 
of faults as were the great Gothic cathedrals. But 
neither cathedrals nor fugues have the mortal fault of 
expressionlessness, like the dead walls of the Gelbes 
Schloss and the deadly dull bars of the Italian concertos 
by Vivaldi and the Duke of Weimar's nephew. 

With all their faults Baches early organ pieces were 
vital. The composer was a man with an original outlook 
that is to say, he looked for his artistic basis to the 
origins of religious faith and musical skill. Consequently 
he was unable to quench the original dramatic fires 
of his art. He could no more avoid the dramatic possi 
bilities of music than he could damp down the fires of 
his own vitality. 

At Weimar Bach's mouth was closed so far as clear 
utterance of Christian ideas was concerned. But the 
cause was alive in his heart j and in his own instrumental 
works we find him, not making pretty musical speeches 
m the Italian style to please his master, as he could so 
easily have done, and in later times actually did but 
striving with the dramatic possibilities of his musical 

So longa$ lie associated that language with the popu- 


lar and definite concepts of the chorale there was no 
mistaking its meaning. Later, in his Cantatas and Pas 
sions, that meaning became even clearer. In his instru 
mental works the objective is not so obvious, because 
it has seemed to many as if he were studying to develop 
music as a detached art. But we have already seen that 
no such music can hang together except upon a purely 
formal basis. It is the more significant therefore, that 
Bach should have written pieces which owe their shape 
to forces other than the architectonic laws of absolute 
and decorative music. Other such pieces, and finer ones, 
were soon to comej and the more we study the great 
series of chorale-preludes and choral works (especially 
the Passions and chorale-cantatas, which formed the 
most essential part of his life-work) the more we realize 
that the instrumental works of his Weimar period were 
exercises by means of which he learned to use the lan 
guage of music in a dramatic manner. 

Six years after Bach was appointed organist to the 
Duke of Weimar he was promoted to be Concert- 
master. From that time his attitude grows clearer to us, 
because the new position entailed the composition of 

The manner of his promotion is not without interest. 
He had competed, and was chosen, for the position of 
organist for the Church of Our Lady at Halle. After 
considering the matter for about a month he decided 
against taking up that appointment, much to the annoy- 


ance of the Halle officials who accused him of using 
them to better his conditions at Weimar. Judging by 
Bach's actions there may have been some ground for 
the taunt} but other things also affected his decision. 
The terms of the agreement which he would have been 
obliged to sign showed that the religious strife he had 
experienced in Miihlhausen existed at Halle also. 
Moreover the agreement included items to which no 
artist could easily subscribe. They proposed not only to 
dictate the channels of his artistic expression, but the 
very organ-stops he should use for the hymns, though, 
to do the Halle people justice, it is possible that the 
taste of previous organists had rendered such a stipula 
tion necessary. Then, of course, there was the inevitable 
opposition from the Duke of Weimar, who was in a 
position to hold his menial to his own service. And that 
was probably the decisive factor for, in a subsequent 
letter written by the composer to the Halle officials in 
defence of his behaviour, he said that, altogether apart 
from matters of salary, he was unable to change his 
situation owing to a question of law. That the Halle 
people came to understand the affair in that light seems 
likely by reason of an invitation they sent him later on. 
The invitation, to examine and report on a new organ, 
he accepted, and was treated as a very honoured guest. 
If it was the duke who had stood in the way, he evi 
dently tried to make it up to Bach not necessarily in 
financial terms, for Halle had offered him less than 


he was already getting at Weimar j but by giving the 
musician opportunities for composition in larger forms 
such opportunities as had perhaps been hitherto un 
duly monopolised by the inferior musician who was 
Bach's official superior. 


I HRISTIANITY and the common life of the people 
had already been intimately associated in 
Bach's earliest cantatas j and, as we have al 
ready seen, not only in the occasions for which they had 
been written, but also, and more significantly, in the 
chorale-stuff which permeated them and the polyphony 
which gave them communal form. 

Even at Weimar, before he had been officially re 
quired to produce such things, he had made two church- 
cantatas } and, so far as can be ascertained, they were 
composed without previous commission, possibly even 
without a definite performance in view. 

Both works not only prove the master's comparative 
steadfastness to his original principles they also re 
veal something of his mental life and personal feelings 
during his court service. 

The cantata, Nach dir> Herr verlmget mich, is evi 
dently an outcry of personal suffering. The words ex 
press the feelings of one who is troubled by the course 
his life has takeik 

There is a short sorrowful instrumental introduc- 


tion, based upon the downward chromatic figure already 
used in the farewell to his brother, a figure regularly 
used by Bach for the expression of extreme suffering, 
and eventually used for the Crucifixes in, the B minor 

Next a chorus in which the same figure persists: 

Lord, my soul doth thirst for Thee! 

O God, my hope is in Thee! 

Let me never be confounded. 

Up, Lord, that my foes may not triumph over me ! 

Then a more hopeful aria asserting that 'right is 
and will be always right.' In that aria is a little detail 
which is amusing in its betrayal of a major quality in 
the composer's own character. To the words c no worldly 
care shall move me' the music suddenly pauses in its 
polyphonic progress, and sticks upon a single chord 
with the obstinacy which was an outstanding part of 
his own nature when engaged in his several disputes. 
That feeling grows in the next section of the cantata into 
an assurance that because his point of view is right it 
will finally be vindicated: 

'Stablish me upon the rock of truth 

And comfort me; 

For the Lord is God, my hope and strength. 

The music develops: instead of an obstinate monochord 
we have a steady upward scale passing from part to part 
a symbol of right forcing its way up starkly through 
all adversity j and when the scale rises beyond vocal 


convenience, it is taken over by the less personal and 
more powerful tones of the orchestra. Could there be 
a more exact symbol in music of the idea presented by 
the words the ultimate impersonal vindication of 
truth, a truth which is at present beyond a single man's 
power to assert? And then the parts state their separate 
trust in what the future will bring forth. 

The whole mood changes, and the people's song en 
ters into one of the loveliest forms with which it has 
ever been clothed by a great artist. It sings that ultimate 
faith in the good purpose of life without which no man 
can do good work, whether the work be the ploughing 
of the field or the fashioning of a chorus: 

Cedars on the mountains swaying 
Bow their heads the winds obeying, 
Proudly o'er the tempests ride. 
Hearken thou to Gods commanding 
Though it pass thy understanding: 
Trust in Him whate'er betide. 

Bach's head had already often had to bow to the 
harsh wind of evil circumstance ducal anger of bur- 
gherish blockheadedness but the genius within him, 
which had been originally derived from just such popu 
lar songs as this, ever insisted on uttering the crucial 
word, and it seems that not even Bach himself was able 
to prevent it. However inconvenient that inner genius 
of his may have been in the matter of his personal ad 
vancement, it gave him a power which enabled him to 


work on defiantly, though in mental chains, to the end 
of his days, and filled him with that strange happiness 
which has been recorded of artists who have lived even 
more suppressed lives than he. 

So, in significant opposition to the first sad chorus, 
the one which follows that assertion of the spirit of the 
people is a song of joy. The themes are now of an 
ascending tendency, and though no actual phrase of 
folk-song is used the flavour of the chorale is present 
throughout. And the real thing breaks through again 
in the last number of the cantata a chorale-chaconne: 

Though my life be only sadness 
God will end my days in gladness. 
Jesus head with thorns was crowned, 
But his joy in heaven, abounded. 
So in God my hope is stayed 
Of men's power unafraid 
Christ the dead, yet in us living 
Gives us victory in our striving. 1 

The last chorus thus revives the spirit of the popu 
lar and materialistic Christianity of the Middle Ages. 
That spirit is to some extent obscured by the symbolic 
phraseology; but the final lines mean nothing intelli 
gible if they do not proclaim that the real Christ is 
alive, not in the skies, but in living men on earth j so 
there is still a chance of ultimate victory in a more real 
sense than was encouraged by orthodox Lutheranisnu 

* The above translations by $teuart Wikon have been quoted from 
Bre&kopf and HiitePa Engllsa 


The significance of this cantata in relation to the 
time and conditions of its composition is clear enough. 
Therefore we need not be surprised to learn that an at 
tempt has been made to deny it as a work of Bach's. 
If it were conceivable that there were two such com 
posers alive just then (and Rubinstein said the day 
would come when men would believe that Bach's works 
were written, not by one but by many) the absence of 
this cantata would take an important link from the per 
sonal aspect of this study. It would leave us a little less 
clear regarding Bach's own feelings during the Weimar 
period, and we should miss a rung in the ladder of his 
descent from optimism. The Chappy ending,' so much 
derided' by some people, is one of the surest signs of a 
healthy and creative spirit. But the loss of this cantata 
would enormously add to our major argument, that the 
art of Bach was no mere result of a personal and 
dividual genius, but essentially individual, original, and 

The other ducally unauthorised cantata was Gottes 
Zeit* It is said to be a funeral music; but was not, Spitta 
declares, intended for any member of the duke's 
own family. *It has a depth and intensity of expression 
which reach the extreme limits of possibility of repre 
sentation by music. The arrangement of the poetic 
material is most excellent . f f In several fit and ex 
pressive thoughts which are freely interspersed we can 
almost recognise Baches own hand If such be the case 


the whole arrangement of the poetry may with reason 
be ascribed to him-' 

Not only was this text almost certainly Bach's own, 
but that of the cantata previously described in this chap 
ter. Indeed, I cannot help feeling that the composer 
was responsible for more of his texts than is generally 
imagined. We know that he modified details and made 
substantial additions to librettos by other men. And 
there is the singular manner in which many of them 
apply to the religious life of the time and to his per 
sonal career apply, not with such an application as 
would have been given by an orthodox librettist, but 
exactly according to Bach's own pietist bias. Moreover, 
we cannot help noticing that it is in some of his most 
expressive works that the authorship is in doubt. 

It is in just such works as this Gottes Zeit, wherein 
the consecutiveness of the movements unfolds a dra 
matic idea an idea which is in harmony with his gen 
eral mental development, and more strongly expressed 
than in the work of any known contemporary that the 
deeper parts of the master's nature are most likely to 
be revealed. 

Strangely entitled A CMS Tragkus, this cantata has 
been looked upon as a funeral music. If so, it is for no 
ordinary ceremony. No artist, and especially no artist 
with so realistic a mind as Bach, would give such a 
title for a cantata made for a customary death-rite, not 


for his dearest friend, and certainly not for the death 
of a royal person. 

Not only the title, but the loving perfection of ar 
tistry which was devoted to its making, proves that it 
was specially important in the composer's own mind. 
Then, in connection with the contention that Bach con 
stantly associated the people's songs with the popular 
conception of the Christian religion, it would appear as 
though the tragic drama here expressed might be the 
failure and funeral of Christianity itself. 

Consider some of its detail: Unrelenting sternness 
in the first half, expressive of the mysterious life which 
passes human understanding, a prayer for mental disci 
pline, and a command for organization. In that earlier 
half is an attitude of determinism, of resignation to 
inevitable destiny. And throughout that part there is no 
suggestion of chorale. But when the work reaches the 
happier moment when individual human beings take 
conscious part in the rite then at once the people's 
song appears. 

Nevertheless the part to be played by human beings 
is no longer the real and material thing which it had 
been in earlier times; nor is there even the veiled hope 
suggested in the previous cantata. 

Here in the Actus Tragicus we have another retreat 
in the fight against actual wrong. The hope that 

Christ the dead in us yet living 
Gives us victory in our striving, 


is evidently not so strong as it was. It is hard to remain 
steadfast in a series of battles which seem every time to 
be won by the forces of wrong a war in which even 
those who most suffer are easily decoyed into the service 
of the enemy. Is there no way of sustaining the battle 
without bringing on one's self a violence which may 
shortly make it impossible to fight at all? Can a man 
appear to give in, and yet continue to serve the cause 
of righteousness in other, and perhaps secret, ways? 
Many good folk were already doing thatj and some 
such modification of religious outlook seems to be indi 
cated by the Actus Tragicus. 

Perhaps the funeral which it celebrated was the sacri 
fice of the composer's own career 5 perhaps it was the 
death of Christianity itself in a real and material sense 
the sacrifice or end of the outward struggle, and its 
transference to a spiritual and imaginative sphere. 

Especially revealing in that connection is the little 
duet in which the voice of Jesus promises Paradise sub 
sequent to death, and the tired Christian promptly ac 
cepts death as a precious gift, superior to life itself. 
'Into Thy hands I commend my spirit' and *To-day 
thou shalt be with Me in Paradise,' phrases chosen by 
Bach himself, perfectly express his own mental desires 
in a World where all the noblest functions of his art 
were denied j where his imagination could only be as 
serted in art-forms to wMch tlie geneiial public had no 


access. The only hope that remained was the unreal 
world called Paradise. 

Sir Thomas More had been faced with the same dis 
appointment when he wrote his Utopia, Milton when 
he wrote Paradise Lost, Bunyan when he wrote Pil 
grims 3 Progress. As they, so Bach, whose Actus Tragkus 
expressed the position in which all Christians found 
themselves at least all who had believed and laboured 
that the Great Kingdom might really come on earth. 

Another detail of much meaning in the cantata was 
a cause of stumbling for Spitta, who said the work was 
undramatic because of the very number of forms in 
which the dramatic sense is most fully shown. The 
greater mass of the chorus altos, tenors, and basses 
sing the inevitability of death: c lt is the Old Decree, 
Man thou art mortal.' Against; that from time to time 
the sopranos cry for the coming of Christ. The orches 
tral material is inlaid with a chorale 1 which indicates 
unuttered words which would be understood by somfe at 
least of those who might hear it. Those unuttered 
words related to the final abandonment of the life strug 
gle, and the complete casting of the self upon the forces 
of circumstance. 

After trying to solve that riddle with the key of 
orthodoxy, Spitta was brought up against the fact that 
the music does not enforce, but denies the idea that the 
curse of death has been changed into blessing by the 

1 Icb hab>min Sac^ Gott hetof estdlt. 


coming of Christ. So Bach, even as he proposed to trans 
fer the Kingdom of God to a remote future after death, 
expressed his incredulity. 

For people who are comfortably off in this world the 
legend of a far-off heaven for 'believers' and men of 
'good deeds' may seem well enough, especially if their 
belief is sufficiently vague, and the nature of good deeds 
not too dearly defined. But what about those who suffer 
want and pain on earth? What about Bach himself in his 
invidious position- in the outer world a demand for 
shameful service (remember the general character of 
those German courts), and within the accusing voice of 
his own popular and pietist genius! 

Had Bach or anyone else a real assurance that Chris 
tian principles would win in death what they had failed 
to win from life? 

Spitta proposed a comparison of musico-dramatic 
treatment which will serve us equally well, 'Gluck 
makes the Furies retreat gradually before the song of 
Orpheus and leave the field to him j in Bach the threat 
ening image of the Old Decree remains to the last,' as it 
was in very fact surviving in Bach's time everywhere. 

The meaning of that almost secret use of the people's 
song is surely dear enough. Its free and open use in the 
numbers which follow is associated entirely with the 
imaginative and unreal nature of Christian ideas trans- 
feprfcl to a world of dream. 
piose chorale-founded numbers are further examples 


of the bondage and sympathies of an artist who even in 
his bondage was clearly reaching out to the masses of 
the people. Bach spoke mystically from his prison-house 
at Weimar as Bunyan from Bedford jail. He had come 
to terms with hard fact. His family was fast increasing; 
if he would be fair to his wife and children he must 
be resigned to the prison-house of mysticism for his 
art. For Christ was a hard master, and, if any man went 
to Him, and hated not his father, and mother, and wife, 
and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his 
own life also/ he could not fully serve Him. 

Uninfluenced by the taste or will of his paymaster 
Bach wrote the two cantatas we have just considered. 
Now we have to examine works in similar form which 
were composed for the edification of a lordling who 
himself decided points of religious difference, after 
amenable university professors had devilled his briefs. 

A certain change is at once apparent. 'Instead of dra 
matic texts we now get wretched poems which are al 
ways cut out to the same pattern. The arioso is 
supplanted by the da capo aria and the secco recitative. 
The plan is still further impoverished by the fact that 
the choir now recedes wholly into the background j it 
figures only at the beginning and the end. 51 Schweitzer 
is puzzled and concerned by the change because from 
the outset he has approved the Italian influence as de 
sirable and fruitful. But the evils he enumerates are 

t 1*7, 


the result of the master's acceptance of foreign formu 
las which had nothing to express of the popular Chris 
tian cause in Germany, and nothing to say to the Ger 
man people which concerned their welfare. 

Because Bach was by that time further removed from 
the popular spirit whence sprang his own originality, he 
had to fit himself to formulas j and the formulas he 
chose were necessarily those dictated by the tastes of 
his duke. Because the composer's own emotions were the 
less stirred he was content with a dry recitative where 
formerly his creative spirit bubbled over with arioso. 
Because his lackey-service tended to dividuality and iso 
lation of spirit, to the loss of those greater emotions 
which only reach full expression in art when a fair rela 
tion exists between artists and their fellow workmen, 
the coro-dramatic form which was yet to be his greatest 
glory received a definite set-back. 

The two earlier Weimar cantatas progress from idea 
to idea, from emotion to emotion, with the natural con- 
secutiveness of a living experience. It is not merely 
brain-logic that threads them, but the pulse of life 
which beats in them. And while Bach was revealing the 
inmost working of the human heart, he linked it up 
with apt appeal to the reason by means of the words, 
and to the external physical life by means of his realistic 
fArpeplogy. The quivering of the very flesh in the 
for 'In Him live and move/ the figure of the 
body and its resistance to the death-summons, 


the last gasp of the lungs those, and other hints of a 
physical nature, complete the dramatic appeal by relat 
ing the material to the intellectual and emotional world 
where finally the most intense strife takes place. 

Already in the early chorale-variations we have seen 
that realistic phraseology employed to enforce the emo 
tional expression of Christian belief. We have also seen 
how in the earlier preludes and fugues for organ he 
tried to give vital form to dramatic ideas which are 
beyond our power to interpret, because we are without 
a key such as we have to the cantatas in their texts, 
and to the chorale-preludes in the original words of the 
hymn-tunes. We have seen how in the earliest Weimar 
cantatas a definite emotional progress is recorded in 
complicated but clear form, giving in Nach dir the 
drama of Christian Life suffering oppression but not 
without hope of final victory, and in the Acttis Tragicus 
the drama of Christian Death, associated with the for 
lorn hope that what is lost on earth may be gained in 
the sky. 

It seems as if a form was being evolved for the 
drama which moved Bach so strongly, a form which 
confuses even as it impresses those who study his work. 

Drama is action, but not necessarily or entirely physi 
cal action. The last faint breath of life, expressed in 
Gottes Zeit by means of a delicate musical phrase, is as 
truly dramatic as the death-spasms of a Shakespearean 
heroj Bach's response for the soul as truly dramatic as 


Eliza Dolittle's swear-bomb in her mother-in-law's 
drawing-room. A different medium a slower and less 
physical medium was used by the composer ; but psycho 
logical action and reference to the most intense human 
experience are even more obvious in musical form, and 
quite as clearly conveyed as physical reactions by ges 
ture drama and intellectual ideas by spoken drama. 

Bach's own genius had led him to such dramatic ex 
pression, though before his time the popular religious 
drama had been suppressed. So, when he was free to 
choose his own texts, a dramatic basis was inevitable. 
When, later on, he became once more his own master 
(in the mental world, anyhow) he found the dramatic 
form he was seeking. But for the rest of his years at 
Weimar he was prevented from developing his natural 
genius, because he was supplied with castrated texts by 
the duke's own orthodox verse-makers. 

The dramatic form which Bach had proposed, and 
then dropped for a time, was the same which Beethoven 
developed later in his instrumental works and Wagner 
in his stage works. It had for its prime purpose the 
expression of the complete mental life in the only 
medium capable of giving that life full expression- 
thoughts verbally delivered, emotions made present in 

Had Ba^h been concerned with a stage presentation 
of Ids dramatic ideas he would clearly have cast them in 
other formsj bat the stage is aot the only, and not al- 


ways the best means of dramatic expression; and be 
cause he had not the stage, with all that accompanies 
it of physical detail, he supplied what was necessary of 
the physical world by means of his realistic musical 

Such had been his creative attitude hitherto j such 
was his attitude to be, and even more emphatically, in- 
the Passions $ but during his latter years at Weimar he 
tried on the foreign cloak of Renaissance artifice. From 
time to time we catch sight of the real Bach within 
the cloak, the worried musician in the outfit of a brigand ; 
and the good German is so obviously ashamed and dis 
concerted by his foreign gear that the dramatic con- 
secutiveness of his work is completely spoiled. 

For English students the later Weimar cantatas most 
easily accessible are Ich Jwtte vial Bekilmmerniss; 1 
Nun Komm, der Heiden Hpiland;* Tritt auj die Glau- 
bensbahnf and one secular piece. These show a steady 
increase of superiority to the Italians in the use of their 
own methods, a steady increase in the element of 
amusement, and a steady decrease of religious spirit. 

We have already examined in the earlier cantatas 
the effect of the opening instrumental passages, its func 
tion being to wipe the outer world from the slate of the 
mind. They were comparatively emotionless and quite 
pertinent. In the later Weimar cantatas those opening 

1 Bag, trapsl., Novello and Breitkopf editions. 

*Eng\ transL Breitkopf edition. 

*Eng*. tamml Oxford University $ > ress aad Breitkopf editions. 


bars grew and grew being styled respectively, in the 
three cantatas just mentioned, Sinfonia, Overture, and 
Concerto until they accept the name of the most in 
solent of musical forms, the concert-piece in which 
musical acrobats of the highest skill have always loved 
to disport themselves. 

Such degree of impertinence was not easily touched 
by Bach. The Sinfonia of Ich h&tte viel Bekilmmerniss 
is at least modest in the matter of length. It accepts the 
Italian principle of the greater importance of a solo 
part, but it holds contact with the polyphonic spirit by 
offering Pwo soloists playing in imitative form. It ac 
cepts the Italian principle of thematic decorativeness 
instead of the German principle of melodic expressive 
ness, but it preserves the living spirit of music by giving 
expressional value to the figuration. Hearing an Italian 
piece of that time, attention would be concentrated 
chiefly on the skill of the performers. Great technical 
skill is needed properly to bring out the beauty of the 
Bach phrases, but their emotional atmosphere is real 
enough to make, one forget the skill of the performers 
in the greater wojjder of the music. And there is a 
definitely dramatic effect in the chords and pauses of 
the final bars, and in the strange little figure which un 
expectedly seems to cut off the music a bar before it is 

Is that little upward arpeggio a gentle sigh at the 
end of the melancholy? Or should it have a rougher 


interpretation, and suggest something of the impatient 
labour which Bach must have experienced in the mak 
ing of the piece? For with all its beauties of detail, the 
cantata lacks dramatic continuity. It seems to have been 
put together from odds and ends which the composer 
had by him, rather than composed as a fairly schemed 
work from beginning to end. And the music chosen for 
the first chorus being entirely unsuitable for the words 
Bach seems to have made the introductory piece to give 
what the chorus could not give. But neither is there 
a clear message in the Sinfonia. Expressive though its 
phrases are, they do not reach the full and significant 
beauty of German melody. 

Melody is supposed to be the chief, and indeed the 
only, considerable feature of Italian music. That is 
nonsense. Throughout the Christian era the Italian idea 
of melody has been superficial. Even the folk songs of 
the Italians have not the strength of character we find 
in the folk music of other Southern peoples, the Greeks 
and Spaniards. Indeed we may probably go a good deal 
further and say that from the pseudo-Greek art of 
Imperial Rome to the feeble flutings of Bellini and the 
verbose inflammation of d'Annunzio the indigenous 
Italians have shown a strange incapacity for noble crea 
tive art. It was in those parts of Italy which were settled 
by German tribes, that art of the noblest kind has arisen. 
Giotto and Dante were born in districts which were so 


The natural melody of Italy seems to have been so 
poor that its most representative composers have sought 
to disguise its shame with a florid and futile decoration 
of arabeskesj and that was the kind of music which 
evidently appealed to the ducal circle at Weimar. That 
is the kind of art which Bach is supposed to have imi 
tated in the introduction to the Bektimmerniss cantata! 
Handel was at the same time copying the foolish art 
with more success, and losing something of his natural 
power in the effort. Bach in imitating the external ap 
pearance of the art filled it, as we have already seen, 
with whatever of music it could be made to holdj and 
though he was not allowed to make melody the basis 
of the whole structure he placed under the two solo 
parts a logically moving bass, and gave to it all a har 
monic variety which must have seemed a little bewilder 
ing to the poor souls who were quite content with the 
Italian poverty of chord. 

As already stated, the first chorus is a strange thing 
in which words and music seem almost opposed. Hav 
ing expressed what he could of 'heart's affliction' in the 
complainings of the Sinfonia, Bach seems in the chorus 
almost wholly intent on making a music which will 
regain for him a sense of self-respect as a polyphonic 
artist. Instead of 'my heart was sad and sorrowful' a 
more fitting text would be 'I will not write that feeble 
stuff/ and then the musical quality of the chorus would 
sound right enough. The whole piece is strong IB feel- 


ing, and the old communal principle of polyphony as 
serted with an onrush as of power which has been 
temporarily dammed up. 

We can see that it cost Bach nothing but a wasteful 
restraint to make music in the Italian style. Whatever 
of lack of ease is shown in these cantatas is due, not to 
unskilfulness in doing an easy thing, but to a feeling as 
of musical suffocation because he was giving out so 
much less than he had to give, while the lack of dra 
matic values must have caused him almost to despair. 

Beginning in weak melancholy and following on with 
an indignant assertion of strength, the first part of the 
cantata is continued in a series of numbers which give 
no clear line of emotional experience such as we saw 
in the earlier works. It would seem as if the chief idea 
of the compiler of the text had been to present an ar 
rangement of varied emotion such as concert-givers try 
to effect when arranging their programmes. Such doings 
were nothing to the purpose of Bach. He made good 
music, gave a more intense reality to the detail} but 
his very power in the latter regard sometimes threw the 
whole thing out of focus. 

Realistic phraseology he maintained, and sometimes 
so strikingly that without a dramatic basis it seems im- 
pearti&ent* Instead of enforcing a dramatic scheme it 
'becomes a detail of detached interest. In Nach dfa the 
ratistic siiggestioH of the scale passage was the exposure 


of truth in spite of surrounding wrong. In the Bekiim- 
merniss aria which tells of salt tears and stormy billows 
it seems, at first glance, as if the quality of the music 
and the greater reality of the emotional experience were 
of less importance than the opportunity for realistic 
cleverness afforded by the idea of angry waters. In the 
earlier cantata the realism served a dramatic intention. 
In the later cantata the passage actually interferes un 
duly with the general emotion prevailing in the aria, 
and has little or no relation to the work as a whole, 
though, as we shall see presently, it may have been 
something in the nature of a personal outcry. 

More dramatic significance attaches to the second part 
of the Bekiimmerniss cantata, by reason of Bach's self- 
revealing treatment of the duet. 

Call to mind the duet in Gottes Zeit in which the 
weary Christian gladly accepted death as a good ex 
change for life; and although the Bekiimmermss duet 
expresses a truer and more dramatic conception than 
anything in the first part, it indicates another step in 
Bach's mental retreat; and, as compared with the earlier 
duet, gives a more dubious view of the Christian faith 
itself. The convinced Christian spirit of the Actus Tragi- 
ws at once accepted Christ's word that Paradise was 
the natural goal, and gave expression to that acceptance 
in one of the people's songs. In the later work the 
faith is less sure. It is a troubled and bewildered soul 


that struggles to believe, but hesitates and halts, for 
some time refusing to take even Christ's own word: 

SOUL: Ah Jesu, my peace! 

Where art thou, my light? 
JESUS: soul, I am with thee. 
SOUL: With me? Here is sheer night. 

The soul cries for power to believe. The way continues 
hard. In the music which follows faith is all but re 
jected. Jesus is even accused of hating the soul! 

All this, interpreted in the light of any conceivable 
shade of orthodoxy, is sheer nonsense. But when we 
understand that Bach was revealing something of his 
own position, which involved a kind of apostasy, a real 
light is thrown upon the strange piece. It at once re 
minds us of the art-work of another great master who 
also concealed, and all but renounced his faith, that he 
might secure his career as creative artist. The ^tern and 
terrible Christ-figure in Michael Angelo's 'Last Judg 
ment' almost exactly pictures the soul's idea of Christ 
in this music of Bach. 

Bach was not only half repudiating the faith which 
was natural to his inmost being; he was also rejecting 
the traditional art which was the only means he had of 
expressing his true belief. In the earlier duet we found 
the chorale j in the later duet the people's song has no 

It is true that some degree of peace is eventually 
reached by the trembling soul. Orthodoxy itself insisted 


on that. But the long section of mistrust completely 
overweighs the short happy section, and even in the 
latter no real confidence is stated in Christ's word it 
is a prayer for the ability to believe rather than belief 

But when in the next number the soul is rebuked: 

The more we mourn about our loss 
The heavier becomes our cross. 

and again: 

Think not when wrong and hate oppress thee 
It is thy God doth thee forsake. 
He in thy breast doth dwell to bless thee 
If thou in Him thy trust do make. 

the composer breaks into the chorale as if he could no 
longer endure his new limitations. 

For this reproach of his despair Bach completely de 
serts his awkwardly assumed Italianisms. He falls back 
on the song of the people and upon the polyphonic style 
which we must surely now recognize as associated in his 
mind with the earlier and communal interpretation of 

And in that connection, note the reminiscence of the 
earlier and more actual conception of Christian doctrine 
in the last but one of the lines just quoted. It sounds 
like a paraphrase of Blake's words: c God onl^ acts and 
is in existing beings or men* 3 

service with the Duke of Weimar involved a 
of apostasy* Not oiily w tfce mattdr of religious 


opinion; but in his efforts to win a livelihood by mak 
ing a more superficial music, the composer was rejecting 
the point of view which he and all his ancestry had held. 
By that he seems to have been reduced almost to 
despair. He was lost in the mood of wan hope which in 
the Middle Ages was held to be the unforgiveable sin, 
because it undermined the will for effort and action, 
thus cutting at the roots of a better life in the future. 

We shall find him sinking deeper yet} but I would 
like to emphasize that at this moment of his career when 
he was being 'devoured by billows' it is of much sig 
nificance that, after going under, he regained his swim 
ming power; and that less by any virtue of his own 
creative skill, than by means of the sane beauty of those 
who had evolved the popular tunes and the musical 
style of an earlier Christianity. The nature of the rebuke 
in the chorale-chorus is such that the inner drama of his 
own life is the more fully revealed. This outburst of 
unmistakeable drama in the middle of an undramatic 
sequence of devotional music, and in the course of his 
efforts to adapt himself to a lower will, is another piece 
of evidence for the main argument of this study. By 
means of the outburst even the wholly inartistic explo 
sion in the tearful tenon aria of the first part is shown 
as a possible detail of the underlying drama j and that 
leads us to believe that when Bach used an obviously 
realistic phrase he was not only displaying a certain bent 
as &n artist^ kit may al$q feave been unconsciously 


drawing attention to some detail of the drama of his 
own life, as well as the greater drama which began in 
Syria nearly two thousand years ago, and is only now 
coming to its end. 1 

Following the chorale-chorus is an aria of happy 
relief in which Bach once more beats the Italians at 
their own gamej and that is the real end of the cantata. 
The subsequent and comparatively conventional chorus 
is thoroughly Italian in spirit and form pompous and 

In his first choral effort for the duke Bach had done 
his best to please j but the innate truth of the man tore 
through the artificiality of the Italian vogue as, later 
on, Beethoven tore through the form of the Italian 
Sonata, and Wagner through the formalism of Italian 
opera. Artistic formulas imposed from without forced 
each composer to push towards a living expression, 
through the dull repetitive forms and the cheap orna 
mental fripperies which had their roots in the false, 
unhappy conditions of life which were established in 
Europe at the time of the Renaissance. Each discovered 
his own natural capacity to express details of reality 
by seeking a path back to the communal ideal. In each 
case it was the impulse to express realities which caused 
them first to give vitality to a foreign convention, and 

1 Professor Petrie in The Revolutions of Civilisation shows how the 
rise and fall of eadh great civilisation has taken' about two thousand 


then to destroy it. But in Bach's case, at the moment in 
his career we have now reached, he had not thoroughly 
come to grips with the foreign form because he had a 
much more expressive and flexible form in his mind 
the traditional cantata form of the North German com 
posers} and for the time being we see him, not seeking 
to destroy the false, but trying to come to terms with 
it. Hence the hesitancy of Bekummerniss as compared 
with his earlier works. 

Italian arias and choruses Bach could take in his 
stride; but Italian recitative originated in the rhythms 
and inflexions of a foreign tongue, in which tongue of 
course it must have had a certain validity. The difficulty 
of adapting such recitative to the German language will 
be understood when we remember the like problem with 
which Handel was faced in his English oratorios, and 
the false accents and inflexions which so frequently 

Recitative functions in vocal works because there are 
often moments especially in dramatic music when 
the mood of the singer is not emotionally warmed to the 
degree where melody is natural and inevitable. Reci 
tative is supposed to be near enough to speech to offer 
a suitable medium for any dull but inevitable links in 
the story, and near enough to music to prevent tht snag 
which occurs when a anger changes his medium from 
song to speech. 1 

1 Except in musical comedy, where the change is a part of the fun. 


Simple observation will make it clear that speech has 
a very wide, and the singing voice a comparatively nar 
row, compass. Feelings of surprise will carry the speak 
ing voice to very high notes, while suffering will often 
find utterance in very low tones high notes and low 
notes beyond the power of singers to sustain. So it seems 
that a musical form which is required to approximate 
to speech will, for one thing, have a more extended 
range of pitch than vocal forms which are essentially 
lyrical. In other words, if the greater part of a dramatic 
singer's role depends upon the middle octave of the 
singing voice, the recitative passages for that same voice 
will cover a considerably wider compass. 

But an outstanding feature of Italian recitative is the 
comparative narrowness of its scale-compass. Even so 
good a German composer as Schiitz had followed the 
Italians in that respect 5 and it is another proof of 
Baches indifference to the Italian method that he re 
ferred even his technic to the actions of normal life, 
even when he was by way of assuming a foreign manner. 

Recitative was apparently taken over by the Italians 
from the Roman ritual where its prime purpose had 
been the carrying of utterances through large spaces. 
The Gregorian tradition, like the music for Jewish and 
Moslem ritual, and apparently like the method em 
ployed by Greek actors in the fifth century B.C., had 
for its original purpose the carrying of utterances 
spaces. Extra and unnecessary notes were 


later on added to draw attention to important words, 
and even to express something of the feeling which ac 
companied the thought, as the colouring of illuminated 
manuscripts became a pictorial expression of the moods 
and meanings of the writing. A similar line was traced 
by the Italians from their dry recitative to their accom 
panied recitative, and by Bach when he passed from 
musical declamation to arioso. 

As conditions of life enabled men to devote them 
selves to things of the human spirit (nearly always 
translated into terms of art and beauty) the narrow 
range of colour in the missal and the narrow range of 
tone in the musicalized speech grew into images and 
melodies, and the Christian world became aware of 
that climax of beauty which matured at Chartres and 
other places, grew richly ripe in, Tuscany, then crystal 
lized in Tudor literature, and finally melted out in the 
aerial art of music. 

During the decline of good material conditions of 
life, the image ceased to have relation to the page, and 
melody grew more important than the feeling it con 
veyed. That is evidence in the Italian music of Bach's 
time for Italians were always the quickest, as Germans 
were the slowest people to mature. So far as Bach's 
Italian contemporaries were concerned the final rot had 
already begun \ and it is noteworthy that although he 
made glorified imitations of their more luxuriant musi 
cal forms, he practically ignored the basis of their dra- 


matic vocal art the dry recitative and stuck to the 
natural melody of his own German speech. In his fi 
delity to that speech-melody he created a dramatic 
medium which anticipated the declamatory vocal music 
of Wagner. 

Professor Dent in his study of Mozart's operas has 
some very interesting pages on Italian recitative, in 
which he finds validity if it is vocalised at the same rate 
as ordinary speech. That might serve in a small roomj 
but as spaces grow larger speech must grow slower and 
more resonant with musical quality. We, like the 
Italians and, to a lesser degree, like Bach, have to con 
sider the pace and fitness of musicalised speech in 
theatres and concert-rooms where a conversational speed 
is out of the question. It was for large spaces that the 
Italians developed their conventionalized monotony; 
for moderately large spaces Bach devised his realistic 

Though the high notes of exasperation and the low 
notes of threat, for example, are beyond the normal 
range of vocal usage and could not be sustained in song, 
it is possible to give in musical notation something of 
their vocal outline and reality of feeling.; That is what 
Bach does. For the Italians and for some of Bach's 
own German predecessors Schutz, for example the 
recitative is a mere sort of colour-decoration and tone- 
carrier for phrases which are not emotional enough to 
be worth setting to formal music, though they are 


needed if the thread of the story or thought is to be 

The roots of Bach's recitative are in the hearts of 
German Christians, not in the conventions of an organ 
ized priesthood 5 for the Gregorian tradition was a voice 
of authority, pontifical and unemotional. 

This early artistic decision and consistent adherence 
thereto are characteristic of Bach. His steadiness of style 
has been adduced as a sign that there is no real growth 
in his artistry from the earlier to the later cantatas: 
such growth as, for example, we find in the develop 
ment of Beethoven's symphonies and Wagner's music- 
dramas. That is an unnecessary criticism, calculated to 
give a false impression of the greatest master of the 
three. So far as the external form of the cantatas was 
concerned there was no room or need for development. 
Bach had simply to use what texts he could, and give 
to them a true musical expression. The form was al 
ready perfect, in the same 'way that the Catholic Mass 
was a perfect art-form. 

An artist who comes on the crest of a cultural wave 
has no need to develop his material} he has to fit his 
craftsmanship for the service and carry on. Once Bach 
had trained himself as craftsman his work was perfect, 
because he was serving something greater than a per 
sonal art. What seems like development in the works 
of Beethoven and Wagner was not development in the 
sense of moving their art towards some greater goal 


than is to be found in Bach 5 on the contrary, theirs 
were reactionary movements back towards Bach. 

Behind the symphonies o Beethoven there lay the 
naive practice of Haydn and the perfect and wasted 
craftsmanship of Mozart. It took Beethoven but two 
attempts in the Mozartian symphony to know what he 
wanted to do in that form, and to realize that there was 
little worth doing. Life was outside that workshop 5 and 
Beethoven, like Bach, was the sort of man who must 
discover life at all costs. From the time of the Eroica 
Symphony Beethoven's was no mere artistic develop 
ment, but a general mental growth during which the 
artist was thrusting his way into reality. And inevitably 
the thrust carried backward towards Bach. 

The characteristics of the Mozartian symphony were 
prevailingly Italian. Homophonic style, Palladian bal 
ance, insignificant theme, and harmonic consonance 
were, as we have already seen, the outstanding feature 
of the Italian school. Beethoven set himself the task 
of winning back polyphonic power: he organized his 
movements as Bach had organized his fugues and the 
Gothic builders their cathedrals, not to fulfil a pre- 
decided form, but to express the fullness of their own 
inherent value; and that value was often based, not 
upon a fragment of theme, but upon a definite tune. 

The great communal art of which Mozart had a 
glimpse in his declining days, and Beethoven fought 
for with all his power, was, in the time of Bach, still a 


reality so far as music was concerned. Under such con 
ditions a musician had only to be a faithful Christian 
and a fine craftsman to be a noble artist. All Bach had 
to decide was whether, having won his craft, he would 
by its means serve a good or a bad cause, an important 
or an affected cause, a German and popular or a for 
eign and snobbish cause. 

So long as he could he served the good, important, 
and popular cause. When a livelihood was not allowed 
to him in that service he did such works as were de 
manded, and filled them with references, some clear, 
some obscure, to the good cause the cause considered 
bad by Roman and Lutheran orthodoxies alike. 

The master's engagement with Duke Ernst came 
to an unpleasant end. No material benefit had been 
won by Bach's attempts to disguise the nature and sig 
nificance of his art. On the death of Capellmeister 
Drese the appointment was given, not to the genius 
available, but to the dead man's son, a musical nonentity. 

A little later Bach was oifered a capellmeister's posi 
tion in the service of Count Leopold of Anhalt Cothen. 
On the composer's request for release from the Weimar 
engagement, the unspeakable duke ordered him to be 

After keeping his menial in detention for about a 
month the duke discovered that arbitrary hangings, 
drawings} and quarterings were unfortunately no longer 
in fashion} so he released the musician from a position 


which must, in any case, have carried with it something 
of the feeling of imprisonment, even from the begin 
ning. Even if Bach had been in a less unhappy condi 
tion than that member of his family who had not been 
allowed to visit his children, what sort of duty was it 
for a man when he could not give true expression to his 
own religious thoughts, nor even to his own musical 

The day had not yet come when, religion being dead, 
music had no purpose but that of putting men's thoughts 
to sleep. 


DEFINITE feeling of relief pervades the 
music which Bach wrote at Cothen, where 
his abilities seem to have been fairly rec 
ognized by the Prince, who gave proofs of real musi 
cal taste and friendship. 

Imagine the expansion of the composer's thoughts 
and feelings when he began to realize the change he 
was enjoying. His musical resources were rather limited. 
Instead of a chorus there was at his disposal only a 
couple of solo voices, and for instruments a small cham 
ber orchestra. But he was not the first musician, nor the 
last, to experience the peculiar pleasure there is in de 
voting the whole of his power to the development and, 
so far as attainable, the perfecting, of intimate forms 
with comparatively small means. 

As a period in his creative life the time at Cothen 
was less important than the years which were yet to 
follow. The music made then naturally contributed lit 
tle to the expression and stimulation of the greater life 
of his timej but for sheer growth of musical artistry it 
was of much importance. The exquisite things which 


flowed from the master in the seclusion o chamber- 
form were preceded by a vocal work, poor enough in 
word and purpose, but radiant with a spirit of thankful 
ness consequent upon his release from a more degrading 

A Birthday Serenade exists in which he seems to have 
expressed his first joy in serving a master who was at 
the same time a music-lover. The words are feeble and 
servile enough* 

The new service was still the narrow service of a 
private master, though it had cast off its musical repres 
sion and resentment. A decent dress had taken the place 
of a comic livery. Some cause an artist must serve. If, 
instead of the welfare of a community, he must answer 
the will and pleasure of another man, it is at least good 
when the person served realizes the honour he is re 
ceiving. Prince Leopold seems to have known j and if 
Bach was still in some ways caged, the cage was gilded, 
and his mind left free. 

No church music was required of him there, though 
two or three cantatas date from that period. But before 
considering the chamber works it will be well to ex 
amine the one or two vocal works for whatever of light 
their words and treatment throw upon Bach's mental 
life during that time. 

Of the few sacred cantatas written at Cpthen one is 
easily available In aji English translation, and reveals 


the greater public spirit which still formed the back 
ground o Bach's mind. 

The words of the opening duet of Du wahrer Gott 
run, in the translation of Thorne and Daisley: 

Thou very God and David's son! 

Out of the dim recess ere time had yet begun, 

My heart's distress, my body's agony, 

Thou knewest and dost know. O, pity me; 

And let Thy wonder-working hand, 

That can alone hell's power command, 

On me a saving health bestow. 

Thus far the sentiment seems personal and private 
enough; but in the recitative which follows the com 
poser does a curious and significant thing. The words 
of the recitative are: 

Ah, go not Thou far from me, Thou Saviour of mankind, 

To cheer the wearied, the feeble folk, and not the strong, 

Hast Thou appeared. 

Therefore Thy mighty power shall be with mine combined. 

Though dim they are, mine eyes confess thee. 

Upon this path, where to distress me 

The world doth bid me tread, 

111 cleave to Thee, and leave to Thee 

No choice unless Thou bless me. 

Here again we have a libretto by an 'unknown* poet, 
who can scarcely have been other than Bach himself. 

Notice the reversion to the earlier and truer concep 
tion of Christianity in the second and third lines j notice 
the association of godlike and human power in the 
fotirthj notice the personal tone of the remaining lines j 


and consider the meaning of it all in the light of Bach's 
apparent weakening of faith at Weimar. Notice how the 
final lines declare that, though the musician felt his 
outward career was more or less committed to the kind 
of service he was engaged upon, he intended to let go 
nothing of his inmost convictions. 

In view of that piece of self-revelation the manner 
of its musical setting is the more remarkable. No or 
dinary recitative would do. An important thing had to 
be asserted for which only the music of the people 
would serve j and! so he came upon a new and interest 
ing form a folk-music in strict time with a running 
commentary of verse. 

Here again is witness to show that Bach looked on 
the chorale as the original and most vital expression of 
popular and essential Christianity the religion which 
was to have saved the weak and feeble, and not the 
strong. His use of the chorale is again unmistakeable. 
He had used it regularly when he was in the public 
service. He had ceased to use it during his period of 
court service, though this cantata was written at Cothen 
it was intended to pave the way for his return to a pub 
lic career. He did not use the chorale for the personal 
mood of the previous number j but for more direct 
ideas he found it necessary, although couched in the 
unlikely form of a recitative. 

At Cothen he was apparently as happy as an artist 
could be whose full powers had no means of expression, 













whose real thoughts no natural outlet in his art; but 
this cantata was composed in the later days when he 
was hoping for an appointment elsewhere. The matter 
is introduced at this point in our study that we have 
some indication of the ideas which haunted the master's 
thoughts during his days of secluded ease. 

What peace of mind means to a scientist, a scholar, 
or an artist can scarcely be understood by men and 
women who find the chief expression of their lives in 
action and social intercourse. The unusual and incon 
venient combination of characteristics in men who must 
live apart from the world if they are to do their work 
properly, and must at the same time belong to the 
world in an extra special degree if their work when 
done is to function fairly, makes life a hard thing for 
them. They have a need for personal solitude, and at 
the same time a need to give public service. They often 
have a positive distaste for action, and at the same time 
are engaged in the production of works which are in 
effective until they are brought into activity. 

Onlookers have often regarded such lives as devoted 
to idleness and self-enjoyment, whereas they are gen 
erally lives of hard and continuous struggle. And I 
think it will be found that only those artists who have 
been able to extract from the world a certain measure 
of the conditions indicated have ever properly made 
good. Schubert had privacy for his personal work, but 


never a fair opportunity for the public to influence him. 
Berlioz and Liszt well understood the public service but 
had not enough solitude in which to incubate their ideas. 
Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Wagner, and 
others at one time or other in their lives found oppor 
tunity for the unfolding of both parts of their characters. 

Bach got his time of mental ease at the age of thirty- 
two and proceeded to write a series of intimate and 
beautiful works which has ennobled even the annals of 
Teuton aristocracy. During the first two or three years 
at Cothen he seems to have composed little. Besides 
travelling with his prince he was allowed to make jour 
neys on his own account for the sake of his art. But in 
1720 his wife died; and then he seems to have devoted 
himself to the making of his chamber works. 

A few months before Maria Barbara's death there 
were musical signs of Bach's interest in the members 
of his family. Discovering that his son Wilhelm Friede- 
mann had considerable gifts, he composed various little 
teaching pieces; and that act of fatherhood led him to 
explore certain aspects of music which hitherto had been 
regarded as outside the range of practical art. 

He started with the idea of making the beginner fa 
miliar with the feeling of his fingers in all likely keys, 
and with the polyphonic principle of uniting two or 
three voices in a single thematic development. The 
pieces were no mere exercises. Bach could no more dis 
sociate the activity of the fingers from the activity of the 


brain, than he could dissociate the service of art from 
the service of the highest ideas that he knew. So what 
were intended as exercises became exquisite little works 
of art. 

As we play the Inventions and Symphonies we find 
them growing in richness and loveliness. This series of 
pieces is not only useful for study and delightful to 
hear 5 it is a landmark in the history of musical develop 
ment. In the making of the pieces the composer was 
led from the initial purpose of giving finger facility in 
various keys to the exploration of forbidden key paths. 
The adventure must have been rather like that of those 
artists who passed from a narrow range of colour to 
the beauties of subtle blendings. 

Although the key signatures of the Inventions and 
Symphonies go no further than four sharps and flats, 
the modulations through which they pass touch such 
extreme keys as G sharp minor and E flat minor j so 
they prepare the way for the Forty-Eight Preludes and 
Fugues wherein the master asserted the musician's right 
to the use of a full palette. 

Starting with the idea of helping his little son on a 
difficult journey through as many sharps and flats as 
he would be likely Jp| ^counter, Bach added to the 
number of such dif^^^ taking his stand by those 
progressives who a more equal tuning of 

keyed ia$tnraent&. 

Ill French Suites also were the outcome of Wilhelm 


Friedemann's studies, while some of the pieces then 
composed found their final place in the well tempered 
Clavichord itself. 

We are sometimes inclined to marvel at the difficulty 
of a few of those pieces, intended as they were for the 
use of a boy of ten years. Indeed we may even be sur 
prised at the considerable technic required for other and 
more advanced works by Bach. Such technic was ap 
parently nothing out of the way. If anything there had 
been before Bach's time a decline in the general per 
forming ability of musicians. That seems clear if we 
compare the most difficult of the Bach works for keyed 
instrument with some of Bull's compositions in the 
Fitzwilliam Virginals Book. It was a decline comparable 
in some ways with the decline in polyphonic choral 
music between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries. 

The Elizabethan madrigal composers were the last 
wave but one, while Bach and Handel were the last 
wave, of a musical tide which had reached its great and 
popular crest in the thirteenth century. The restricted 
public appeal of the later composers was associated, it is 
true, with a more consummate skill and a more subtle 
emotional fragrance j but the later men had centuries 
of traditional skill behind ttyqto ? fis well as centuries of 
public artistic spirit, and tf^fy tyftsic was a pledge of 
their various attempts to re^&| a spirit which earlier 
on had been the spirit of alJ^Kiriste^idom. 

Only a small and select audience of what we should 


now call county people had culture enough to answer 
to the musical appeal of the Elizabethans j and the 
music suffered accordingly in depth of human feeling 
and breadth of human sympathy. Having exhausted 
their vocal imaginations in association with subtle ideas 
and classical allusions, the madrigalians fell back on 
folk-tune variations for harpsichord and virginals for 
sheer need of their musical natures, half-starved as they 
must have been by the affected taste of their patrons. 
We have only to open a book of madrigals at random 
to meet with evidence of such over-refinement of mood: 

Alas, quoth I, what meaneth this demeanour? 

So fair a dame to be so full of sorrow: 
No wonder, quoth a nymph, she wanteth pleasure; 

Her tears and sighs ne cease from eve to morrow: 
This lady rich is of the gifts of beauty, 

But unto her are gifts of fortune dainty. 1 

And even as the too delicate mood of the madrigal 
had degenerated from the lusty public joy of c Sumer 
is icumen in 7 and its like, so the affections of Elizabethan 
patronage soon reduced the hearty associations of the 
folk-song variations to displays of extreme technical 
difficulty such as we find in the pieces of Bull. 

The bravado of Bull's as compared with the force 
of Bach's less extravagant technic is one proof that the 
vahi6 of craftsmanship is relative. A certain amount of 
skill is ne(B$ary for the expression of ideas j if an ex- 

Bji^fc Songs of Stmdry Nature^ 1589* 


travagant and obvious technic is used it is because there 
is an absence of ideas. 

What the winning of such an executive ability as 
Bull's meant of time and labour is best left to the 
imagination j and Bull was not alone, even though the 
most extreme of that time. Technical ability in Bach's 
young days was certainly less extravagant, as witness the 
Bible Sonatas of Kuhnauj but there must have been 
in existence, and known to the Bach family, many key 
board pieces of great difficulty. So the Clavier-buchlein 
which to us seems rather a book for intermediate pupils, 
was for young Wilhelm Friedemann an elementary 
book of studies. Its main purpose was certainly not that 
of dazzling an audience with an exhibition of finger 
tricks, but a means of acquiring such skill as would 
enable a keyboard instrument to give a definite idea of 
the many-melodied style from which all the best music 
known to Bach had sprung a style which was taken 
over by the organ and piano tribe partly because it was 
the style of the great tradition, partly because (as we 
have seen in the case of the organ) the decline in the 
concerted or communal practice of music had made it 
necessary to transfer the whole art and craft to those 
unsatisfactory instruments instruments which were 
conveniently adapted to the change from communal to 
solo practice, but were entirely unsuited for the finer 
and fuller revelations of polyphony. 
After Bach's death the disintegration of polyphony 


was rapid. Mozart stemmed it, but added nothing that 
was not known to Bach. Beethoven could not recapture 
it, though he tried hard enough, rightly feeling that 
only in a polyphonic music could the ordered spirit of 
Freedom find a natural voice. A homophonic style could 
well serve as background for the narrower thoughts 
more fitting for the medium of a soloist, but it could 
only express the multitude as* a mob never as a vital 
organism of many individuals. 

Consequently, in most of Back's pieces for solo in 
struments there is a paradox which can only be resolved 
by transferring them to their rightful medium the 
concerted group, from string duet to full orchestra the 
more especially as we live; in a time when the organ is 
disappearing as an instrument of art, and continuing 
chiefly as a museum specimen in church or a diseased 
debauchee in the cinema. 

The fact that so many short clavier pieces made at 
various times by Bach should afterwards have been col 
lected by him as Prelude and Fugue, Invention and 
Symphony, Suite, and so on, according to their key- 
relationship, has a significance which is often overlooked 
in these days when the sense of key is in danger of 

Both melody and harmony have a mathematical 
basis, though they were actually developed by process 
of experiment. By what steps those musical elements 
reached their final form in European music there is no 


room here to trace ; but this much is certain and must 
be emphasized, that the earlier and modal forms of 
melody, and the earlier and consonantal forms of har 
mony, are characteristic of an art which has not even 
begun to reach its climax. 

Primitive harmony may be best studied in its ex 
tempore forms at social gatherings or during the march 
of soldiers, and not in its earlier scholastic forms. The 
outstanding characteristic of primitive harmony is its 
lack of dissonance. 

Primitive melody may be heard in the songs of 
birds and babies. Before folk-music could be properly 
recorded it was necessary to introduce the gramophone, 
because the intermediate scale sounds of the folk-singers 
could not be properly shown in conventional notation. 
Later forms of melody have a clearer definition of 
scale, at first without, and then with, a feeling for a 
keynote. Finally, what we call the major scale domi 
nated all the best music of Europe. That progress from 
vagueness to definition of pitch and note relationship is 
a good example of the truth contained in Blake's preg 
nant sentences: 'Nature has no outline, but Imagination 
has. Nature has no tune, but Imagination has,' 

The degenerate tendency of our own day to renounce 
what was so hardly won has also been well expressed 
by the same author: 

These are the Idiot's cMefest arts, 
To bleud acd not define the parts. 


To make out the parts is the wise man's aim, 
But to loose them the fool makes his foolish aim. 

Nor must the loose structure of Blake's own verse cause 
us to be careless of the truths it contains* 

In Bach's time the slight differences between Ionian, 
Lydian, and Mixolydian modes on the one hand, and 
on the other between the Dorian, Phrygian, and Aeolian 
modes, had coalesced as major and minor scales re 
spectively. In that process the minor scale became nearly 
approximated to the major by the eventual use of the 
major sixth (existing only in Dorian) and the major 
seventh (existing in no mode with a minor third). Bach 
clinched the matter by drawing up his shorter pieces as 
associated groups of compositions in major or minor 
keys 5 and he still further emphasized the greater im 
portance of the major by using in his minor pieces that 
final major chord which only can give a proper sense 
of complete settlement. 

We have only to compare Suites by earlier composers 
with the Suites of Bach to realize the steady growth of 
the key-sense. 

The idea of a keynote was practically established by 
the time of the Fitzwilliam Virginals book in spite of 
which many of those pieces have but an indifferent sense 
of key. They wander to and fro in the various modes, 
at one moment yielding to a healthy instinct for thd 
sharpened seventh, and immediately afterwards basing 
-a whole passage on the flattened seventh a habit prob- 


ably derived from the drones of bagpipes. Examples 
are many, but at random I may instance Byrd's Varia 
tions on Sellenger's Round and on Tregian's Ground. 

By PurcelPs time so definite an interposition of har 
mony on the flattened seventh had become impossible, 
though melodic juxtapositions of the sharpened and 
flattened sixth or seventh were possible as in the Pre 
lude to the English master's Suite in G minor. To com 
pensate for the loss of harmonic variety a timid feeling 
for modulation began to develop j and in that same 
Prelude the composer passed into D minor, besides 
hinting at C minor and B flat major. 

Couperin went a step further. Thus in his B minor 
Suite commencing with the piece called La Raphaele 
he modulated momentarily into A major, E minor, D 
major, and F sharp minor. His full closes in those keys 
are more defined than Purcell's: that makes it clear that 
for Couperin the main key seemed more definitely es 
tablished, so that he could move from it without losing 
a sense of the home key. But it is to be noticed that 
whenever Couperin settled upon the dominant cadence 
as a kind of half-way resting place, he insisted by means 
of a flattened sub-dominant that he had not finally left 
the chief key of the piece. 

When Bach accepted the principle of that halfway 
house he boldly modulated into another key, and an 
nounced the fact by means of a sharpened seventh. 
Moreover, Bach modulated more freely than did Cou- 


perm. In his French Suite in B minor (to choose for an 
example a work in the same key) we find modulations 
into D major, F sharp minor, F sharp major, E minor 
and A major one more key change than in the Cou- 
perin. And whereas Couperin's most sustained modula 
tion lasts for sixteen beats, in the Gigue movement of 
the Bach Suite there is a passage in D major which 
endures for thirty-three beats, besides passages well- 
sustained in other keys. One more point: after each key- 
departure Couperin reverted to the chief key, but Bach 
established his chief key so well that he felt free to 
roam throughout two or three byways of key-tonality 
before returning to his main road. 

Key sense had to be established to save musical art 
from the similarities and vagueness of the modes. A 
danger of monotony was then observed, but was avoided 
by free modulation into related keys. The range of 
modulation was extended after Bach's time, until a 
moment came when it defeated its own end. Too fre 
quent and over-restless modulation becomes as vague 
and monotonous as was the early modal music. Music 
which attempts freedom from key-restriction attains 
that freedom with a result not altogether intended by its 
advocates, by asserting a freedom from any sort of 
coherent appeal. It was the kind of freedom which Pros- 
pero allowed to Ariel only when his work was com 
pleted. 'To the elements be thou free!' but as Blake 
said 'Nature has no outline.' 


In much music that is being made to-day there is no 
intelligible thought because the elements of music have 
been freed from the discipline (among other things) 
of the key sense which was so carefully evolved in the 
rise of our civilization and crown by the genius of Bach. 

A composer like Debussy added something to music 
by reviving modal subtleties which had been dropped 
and forgotten in the heyday of key-recognition. That 
hey-day was subsequent to the time of Bach who wrote 
many a piece in which the peculiar flavour of the modes 
was preserved. 

When we return to the art of Bach after a long dose 
of music without definite key-relationship, the older and 
clearer ways of musical thought seem like a welcome 
anchorage after a very busy, very dull, and almost use 
less voyage. But whereas for us modulation is a return 
home after a strange and stormy journey, for Bach it 
was a great adventure which ended in the colonization 
of new countries. 

One of the lesser details of his exploration was the 
special advantage offered by remote keys to performers 
on keyboard instruments. Like Chopin later on, Bach 
recognized that certain keys hitherto unused were pe 
culiarly suited to the lie of the hand upon the finger 
board. We have only to examine those pieces in The 
Forty-eight Preludes and Fugues which are written in 
several sharps or flats to realize that the form of the 
hands in those keys actually indicated to the master 


many a passage of fresh and effective music. The rapid 
fingerwork in the Preludes in E flat minor and F sharp 
major in the First Book, and the Preludes in C sharp 
major, F sharp major, and G sharp minor in the Second 
Book, offer examples of delicate ideas possible just be 
cause of the position of the hand in those particular keys. 
Such influence shows to a lesser extent in the Fugues, 
because in them the master is limited by his greater con 
sideration for the polyphonic scheme j but even in some 
of the Fugues a similar tendency is to'be noticed in the 
F sharp major Fugue of the first set, and the Fugues 
in C sharp major and B major in the second set. 

Emotional suggestions as arising from key are less 
marked j but, in the two preludes and the two fugues 
in A flat there seems to be a quality which Bach did npt 
reach in any other key, at any rate among the pieces 
for clavier. This aspect of key values, however, cannot 
be pressed. Bach wrote tenderly and even pianistically 
in other keys than A flat} but (and especially recalling 
Chopin's fondness for that same key in relation to that 
same feeling) it would seem that for all composers cer 
tain keys ard associated with certain moods. Is not the 
very word mood but another form of the word mode? 
It seems not unlikely therefore, that the limpid beauty 
of Bach's pieces in C sharp and F sharp major, the 
gentle loveliness of those in A flat, and the strange poig- 
of those in F minor and G sharp minor, derive to 
extent from the fact that the master in extending 


his key range had discovered wider possibilities for his 
growing expressive powers. 

He is said to have written the First Book of the 
Forty-eight during an enforced absence from home and 
from regular musical activity while he accompanied his 
master on a visit. 

A few of the pieces apparently existed before that 
time, but the majority seem to have been written con 
secutively in fulfilment of his key explorations. That 
they may also contain some expression of the repressed 
part of his mind seems likely. The Fugue in F sharp 
minor contains an outstanding passage which reminds us 
of 'the figure Bach used to express *a weary dragging 
walk' in connection with the idea of burial. The Fugues 
in G minor and G sharp minor, have a curious drooping 
phrase, while the Fugue in B minor must be named with 
the most poignant of the master's music- But the chief 
and almost continuous mood of this part of The Forty- 
eight is of cheerfulness in all its phases, from the calm 
assurance of the Fugue in C major to the exuberant joy 
of the Fugue in G major. These are tokens of the hap 
pier mental life Bach was enjoying. 

Reference has already been made to the inability of 
keyboard instruments properly to render the multi 
tudinous life of polyphonic music. That would seem 
to apply in even greater strength to the Sonatas for 
solo violin and violoncello j but there is less difference 
than might be expected in that regard, because a dif- 


ference in the shapes of bridge and bow in Bach's time 
made polyphony almost as possible on bowed instru 
ments as on those with keyboard. Whatever is unsatis 
factory in those works is due less to technical difficulties 
than to the obvious paradox of a single performer pre 
tending to give real and separate life to several voices, 
"On the technical side the works for solo strings were 
as perfect and amazing as those for organ or for those 
of the clavier family. In a certain sense the string works 
are even more important} for, as Schweitzer pointed 
out, Bach was a fiddler before he was an organist, and 
his musical idiom is more frequently derived from fid 
dle phrasing. Because of that the solo sonatas are in a 
certain sense key works. *~^ 

The effect of the flatter bridge and differently con 
structed bow seems to have resulted in a soft quality 
of tone, a tone more like that of the old viols than of 
the modern violin. From that it is dear that the .solo^ 
sonatas are not solos in the modern sense of the word 
not solos for the display of virtuosity, though their 
difficulties are in some ways greater than the more vul 
gar and obvious difficulties of later virtuoso music: not 
solos for the concert platform, but examples of cham 
ber-music in solo form, and intended for a gathering 
oi: inencls rather tlxan for public performance. 
^The wonderful sonatas for clavier and violin are 
better known, and more truly answer to the polyphonic 
demands of Bach's genius; They must be understood 


not as duets but as trios, two voices sounding on the 
clavier and the third on the violin. They certainly con 
tain a few passages in which each instrument predomi 
nates and develops something of its own idiosyncracies : 
for examples, the violin arpeggios in the last movement 
of the A major, and the decorative figures in the cem 
balo part of the F minor Sonatas j but even a cursory 
glance at these pieces reveals the fact that there are 
three continuous parts of an importance that is prac 
tically equal. 

Verbal analysis of instrumental musiqjs a vain thin g]u 
and I do not propose to weary the reader with descrip 
tions of works which must be meaningless unless the 
works are heard, and unnecessary when a hearing is 
possible. All we can do here is to draw attention to the 
deeper and sadder moods which again began to pre~" 
occupy the master's mind ^ and to a more obvious rela- 
tiSnship between some movements in these works and 
The greater world which pursued Bach even into his 

Schweitzer has called attention to the likeness be 
tween the Siciliano of the C minor Sonata and one of 
the most sorrowful arias in the St. Matthew Passion. 
There are two other details which suggest some dra 
matic intention behind the purely musical expression of 
the pieces. One is the first movement of the F minor 
Sonata with its incessant repetition of phrase in the 
clavier part and the loiig drawn commentary ia the 


violin part, the other is the complete exclusion of 
the violin in the third movement of the G major Sonata. 
Some light is thrown on the dramatic meaning of 
the F minor movement when we learn that the chief 
subject belongs also to a motet with the words, c Come, 
Jesu, come, for I am weary.' For the exclusion of the 
violin in the other movement we have no clue or reason. 
It may have been accidental; but an accident so singular 
in the case of a great craftsman like Bach inclines one 
to imagine dramatic intention there also. 

It has been suggested with some show of likelihood 
that the more unhappy movements in these works may 
have been in some way connected with the death of 
Bach's first wife, which happened at Cothen. But the 
words associated with the vocal forms of the above 
pieces refer rather to the less personal problems which 
possessed every important work of the master through 
out his life. 

From the Sonatas to the Violin Concertos is a step 
from the intimate family relations of chamber music 
into that communal art wherein Bach's genius found 
fullest expression. At first thought such a step seems 
surprising. Concertos for soloist and orchestra are ui 
our days the musical application of an evil principle 
wherein one individual is pedestalled and disports 
himself more or less amazingly, while the orchestral 
crowd of lost individualities exists only to further the 
glory of, and give an occasional rest to, the soloist. The 


evil of that kind of concerto is not to be found in any 
work of Bach. 

Even Bach's concertos with a single soloist preserve 
modesty in the chief part and much* variety and inter 
est in the tutti sections. We can hear the composer in 
these works explaining that though his prince is a very 
good fiddler it takes more than a single performer to 
give a good concert} while the rest of the entertain 
ment is likely to be all the more amusing if every part 
is made as interesting as possible. With such a point of 
view it was certain that the concerto form would be 
transformed from the mere exhibition of harmless 
agility such as Corelli and Vivaldi had made it, and 
would become a vehicle for the statement of real musi 
cal problems and the expression of real musical feel 
ing. And we must remember that the very title had a 
different connotation for Bach than it has to-day. 

We, with modern concerto-monstrosities from Liszt 
to Prokoviev and Stravinsky in our minds, find it 
harder than Bach did to divorce the form from solo- 
display. Notwithstanding the dangerous turn given to 
the concerto by its Italian creators, Bach kept it almost 
entirely to that original sense which made it a series 
of pieces suitable for a meeting of friends a concerted 
effort in terms of music. Already at Weimar he had 
written 'concertos' as introductory instrumental pieces 
to church cantatas j and though the admission of so 
long and barely relevant a movement was significant 


of a definite backsliding in the service of a religious 
cause, the master did not allow such introductions to 
degenerate into show pieces for soloists. 

The essential relation between the solo and tutti parts 
of a Bach Concerto is very like the essential relation 
between so-called 'great men' and the ordinary people 
of their time. 

In the work of such men as Giotto, Shakespeare, 
Oliver Cromwell, and Bach himself, there were clearly 
two main factors: the first, made up of the traditions 
they inherited, and the habits and ideas of the general 
public which had arisen in those traditions j the second, 
whatever was singular in themselves. 

It is unnecessary to stress the obvious differences be 
tween Giotto and his fellow shepherds, Shakespeare 
and his brother butchers, Cromwell and his Puritan 
associates, Bach and his Protestant comrades; but it 
may not be unwise to recall the fact that the art of 
Giotto could only have taken the general form it did 
in the Christian communes of northern Italy, and 
Giotto was but one of a group of great painters so alike 
in their genius that there is some doubt regarding the 
authorship of certain works ascribed to himj that the 
art of Shakespeare could only have taken its florid, 
snobbish, and lusciously poetical form in the service of 
a comparatively small and leisurely class, and Shake 
speare was but one of a great group of playwrights so 
like in their blatant methods that Shakespeare stands 


out from his fellows chiefly because of his willingness 
to express the commoner, sweeter, and less arrogant 
aspects of life as well as the mock heroics which he 
shared with the others} that Cromwell was but one, 
and by no means the noblest, of a group of men in 
revolt against an intolerable political system which was 
reducing the whole people to beggary j that Bach him 
self, as we have already seen, derived most of his essen 
tial 'greatness' from his use of the traditional polyphonic 
methods, and his acceptance of the people's song as 
the basis of his work. He came at a time when all the 
hardest upbuilding work had been done, and stands 
out in our view chiefly because he was truer to the real 
significance of his religion than the majority of artists 
of his time, truer to his traditions, religious and musi 
cal, than even Handel. 

None knew better than Bach himself that the only 
part of his art which he might claim as his own was 
due to the personal industry and honesty of his work 
manship and even that we now know to have been 
the result of tradition, birth, habit, and circumstance. 

What remains of personal ^rights' and individual art 
is indeed little. That Bach sensed the actual relation 
ship between an outstanding individuality and the mass 
from which it sprang and to which it belongs, is nowhere 
more dear than in his concertos. It is not merely that 
the orchestral masses are full o living detail; it is 
not merely that some of the orchestral sections are as 


important and beautiful as the solo-parts; it is also 
that the solo-parts nearly always carry a greater re 
sponsibility equal to their more apparent importance. 
The solo parts in the violin concertos are not the spoiled 
pets, but the actual leaders, of the whole work. The 
solo parts in the clavier concertos are not autocrats of 
the music-making, but ministers who carry on the con 
tinue bass throughout, and bear a continuous respon 
sibility of the whole thing; and in this connection it is 
well to recall the fact that the very word lead is cognate 
with load, and a leader one who bears the load. More 
than that even! We have recalled examples of 'great 
men' and noticed that they seem to have come, not 
as isolated phenomena, but as members of a general 
movement in life. That has its parallel in the con 
certos of Bach j for while he wrote nine for solo instru 
ments associated with orchestra, he wrote no fewer than 
twelve with more than one solo part, and two without 
solos of any kind. 

This intuitive sense of a natural human relation 
between leaders and masses inevitably results in works 
of art as much nobler than the concerto form of to-day, 
as a community wherein the leaders are also the load- 
bearers is bound to be nobler than a community in which 
the leaders are loafers, pilferers, and showmen. A slight 
degree of vanity may be permitted to a leader the sort 
of vanity Bach allows his soloists the pride of carry 
ing out an important task well> the pleasure in leading 


a number of people into a world of wider experience 
and greater beauty even an occasional vanity in the 
exposition of exceptional craftsmanship} but never the 
vanity of feeling idly superior, the vicious vanity which 
really ends leadership, and degrades concerted music. 
We need not elaborate that final decadence of the 
'great man 3 idea, in which real leadership having been 
lost in vain postures and impostures, we reach the re 
lationship of pushers and pushed, for though we often 
see examples of that on our own concert platforms 
there is of course no such parallel in the concertos of 

Because of the vital principles which were continually 
stirring in the mind of Bach, he could not for ever be 
content with such means of expression as was afforded 
by even the highest forms of instrumental music. It 
could relieve his emotional spirit, but it could not offer 
a proper means of asserting those principles in the 
common world. It must often have seemed to the 
master that at Cothen he was cut off from the most 
important part of life. Without the originating stimulus 
of the real outer world his genius was, as it were, singing 
in a cage singing there as a lark would sing, well cared 
for, loved perhaps, but existing without a share in the 
material and essential processes of life. 

There are signs of unuttered longing m some of 
those very instrumental works. In some of the violin 


concertos as well as in the sonatas there are thematic 
reflections of the deeper moods which he exposed more 
fully and directly in vocal works. The slow movement 
of the Violin Concerto in E major has a meaning which 
is more fully delivered in the first alto aria of the St 
John Passionj while there is almost as definite a rela 
tionship between the finale of the same concerto and 
the seventh number of the Passion. 

He was probably already engaged on that beautiful 
work, and reflected in his instrumental pieces something 
of its moods. In spite of material ease and musical free 
dom he was not happy, was not satisfied with that nar 
row parasitic life, was already looking out for an 
opportunity of taking part once again in the common 
life where only could his genius get proper stimula 
tion, even if no adequate recognition. 

So it happened that the crowning achievement of 
Bach's genius at Cothen, was not an instrumental work, 
but a composition which reaches out from the vague and 
inner world whence music issues towards the most vital 
form of Christian belief. The St John Passion was for 
Bach himself, not an oratorio, but an expression of his 
faith in the most vivid and dramatic form available. 
It was a true descendant of the mystery plays of the 
Middle Ages. 

That Bach should have composed such a work as 
this Passion a work which must have demanded all 
likely musical resources of the large city while yet he 


was limited by the narrow life and meagre material 
of a private chamber musician, gives some idea of his 
feelings in that caged condition. 

It has been suggested that the work was commis 
sioned by the Leipsic Town Council during the Cothen 
period. That seems very doubtful in view of their in 
ability to perform such a piece in the existing state of 
their choir, the boys especially having run wild under 
a slack and poverty-stricken regime. Nor, if Bach had 
actually been asked for such a work by them, would 
they have subsequently required of him the much 
smaller evidence of his powers (and suitability for the 
post of Cantor! ) in the form of a church cantata. 

Again, it seems unlikely that the Leipsic Council 
would have commissioned an important work from 
Bach, and performed it in 1723 before his appointment, 
the appointment itself being indeed in the air though 
by no means decided on, and almost certainly give such 
a performance as would have made the composer less 
likely to have accepted the appointment afterwards to 
say nothing of the fact that Bach could scarcely have 
scrambled through the composition of the work in time 
enough for its production on Good Friday of that year. 

The St John Passion may very well have been first 
performed at Leipsic after Bach had settled there 5 but 
its composition is more likely to have originated in a 
natural creative impulse. His work at CSthen occupied 
neither all his time nor all his mind} indeed, the deeper 


wells of his character were scarcely drawn upon in 
Prince Leopold's service. The kindness of a cultured 
master was no real stimulus in default of the present 
emotions of the outer world. 

The text was based on a well known Passion poem 
which was set by several composers of that time, in 
cluding Handel. Bach reshaped the libretto, added to 
it and modified it to a large extent, so it has been sug 
gested that he received the help of some 'delicate un 
known poet/ But he was himself quite equal to the 
occasion. If my earlier suggestions are correct he had 
already supplied himself with better texts than were 
otherwise available. In any case, we know that when the 
occasion demanded a setting by him of some official 
poet's words, he was by no means diffident about alter 
ations and interpolations to suit his own more vital 

Chambers tells us that c the dramatic tendencies o 
Christian worship declared themselves at a very early 
period. At least from the fourth century the central 
and most solemn rite in that worship was the Mass, 
an essentially dramatic commemoration of one of the 
most critical moments in the life of the Founder.' 1 

Passion plays had their rise in the twelfth century, 
at that significant moment of Christian civilization when 
tfee tide of popular development was first dangerously 

MeMewfc S&tge, II, 3, by E. K, Chambers. 


threatened, and ecclesiastical officials began to lead the 
masses into the new financial slavery. The first recorded 
Passion play took place at Siena about I2OO, 1 the year 
when the government of the Italian communes was 
taken over by the foreign podestas, and about the same 
time that the old Christian law against usury was dis 
obeyed with the connivance of the Papacy itself. 3 

Of course, Passion plays and masses reach back to 
very primitive rites to the wailings of women for the 
loss of Dionysus, 8 or for the burial of John Barleycorn. 
These were the forerunners of the Maries mourning at 
the tomb of Jesus } but the significance of the Passion 
play from the end of the twelfth century to the time 
of Bach was much less abstract and ritual in character, 
much more intense with real feeling and present rela 
tion to the common life. 

As the attack upon communal Christianity matured 
in the thirteenth century the rite grew into the more 
popular form of the Passion play. Then, as those plays 
were censored and suppressed in succeeding centuries, 
the realistic play assumed symbolic and indirect forms, 
being coloured by official influence until what was once 
performed as a statement of generally acknowledged 
and contemporary fact the fact that an honest man 
will almost assuredly suffer at the hands of dishonest 
officials later on applied to a God who had lived in 

1 Clwunbers, Medieval Stage, II, 75. 
*Thornciike, Medieval Mw*ofe 9 pp, 337-9, 
'Fraser, The GoUen Bough 


the first three decades of the Christian era, and to a 
heaven which could only be reached after death. 

The latter form of belief of course exists in the 
Bach passions j but it is modified by the interpolation 
of solos and chorales which relate the central symbolic 
tragedy to the lives of the performers themselves, and 
to the conditions of their own time so much so that 
Spitta speaks of these works as a later revival of the 
medieval mysteries. It is significant that Mendelssohn 
omitted just these, the more essential numbers, when he 
revived the St Matthew Passion j and to-day it is these 
same numbers which are c cut> to suit the hurry or hypoc 
risy of Christian audiences. 

Within the mysticism and obscurity of Bach's art- 
forms we feel the frustrated passions of the whole 
people. The later conception of an historical Christ and 
a spiritual hereafter could not entirely banish the 
twelfth century belief in the godspring of human beings, 
and the hope, at least, that earth itself could some day 
be made a good place for all. 

In the Bach Passions the expression is of course con 
veyed more by means of the music than by the delib 
erate indirection of the libretto, and by the lyrical solo 
and choral commentaries which are so much more im 
portant and revealing than the actual references to the 
passion of Christ himself. 

Bach gives but a minimum of interest and musical 
value to the story as such, but he relates it to the life 


of his own time by means of the solos, and still more 
by means of the chorales which bring even the musi 
cally uncultured congregations into the drama. He had 
not the physical medium of the stage-play that had 
been forbidden by the Pilates and Caiaphases of the 
time as being too politically exciting and dangerous. It 
was still used at Oberammergau, and until lately at 
Zittau; but generally such an art-form was unrealized 
and even useless. Bach needed no physical stage. The 
realistic nature of his music brought enough of action 
before the imaginative sight of the public, and of inner 
mental life it brought much more an immediate emo 
tional consciousness of the drama as it applied to them 
selves, the emotions of the drama being made by means 
of music actual within the vitals of every performer 
and auditor. 

Official Protestantism had been faced with the prob 
lem of the popular stage much in the same way that 
the earlier Catholic Church had been faced with the 
problems of pagan ritual. In each case the popular 
thing was too strong to be uprooted j so each church 
took it over and used it for Its own ends, spoiling its 
original value by throwing mud upon the manner of 
its previou$ usage. Apollo and Lucifer, gods of light, 
were declared, and indeed had become, gods of dark 
ness j so Luther declared that the popular arts should 
become *gve and decent, of ccrnrn^ und not mere 


coarse buffoonery, such as they used to be under 
popery/ 1 

The coarse buffoonery which Luther chose to ascribe 
to the papacy was of course a part of the real and 
popular nature of the art. The Protestants were not able 
to get rid of it, and when relics of it appear in Bach's 
own art we have the merely artistic admirers of his 
work disapproving of It in the usual official manner 
the scribes of a later day repeating the same con 
demnation of the high priests who had gone before* 
Bach had to evade the anti-Christian glosses of Lu- 
theranism, as the first Protestants had had to oppose the 
deceits of decadent Catholicism, It was not that he 
worked under a kind of ban so far as stage-representa 
tion was concerned} he was one of those dramatic artists 
who had outgrown the need for physical representation 
just because their sense of drama had become so acute. 
Much as Gordon Craig stands to the spoken drama of 
our own day* Bach stood to the Italian opera of hi$ 

The operatic tradition prevailing at Leipeic had al 
most broken the heart of Kiihuau, The whole of self- 
mpecting Protestantism was up in arms against the 
tawdriness and insincerity of the opera m they knew it, 
impoverished as it was by the bored selfishness of the 
ruling class, But the dramatic spirit is a part of all the 
inoit Tital rt md Mires k some ways even more 
strongly when the stage is decadent. The dramatic 

'Micbtki'* JLig&rv Bf tml (Bohn lib**??)* f* tl?, 


spirit lived in Bach with a greater intensity because he 
was deprived of the adventitious aids of such a stage. 
None of the arts using a visible medium were at his 
disposal} he had therefore to feel with double strength, 
to develop a kind of aural eye. He had no lighting, and 
could not bring into visible relief the inscription over 
the head of the Crucified, but he could imagine an or 
chestral figure which might serve instead; or a music 
for, darkness, as for example in the middle of the con 
tralto aria, <It is finished.' He had no stage properties, 
but he could provide a musical equivalent for the 
scourging, or a swift-sweeping phrase with one note cut 
off to make almost visible the sword-stroke of Peter. 
He had no turbulent stage-crowd j but he could write 
choruses in which the parts sway in angry agreement, 
or push and elbow as undirected and excited mobs do 
everywhere. Like Shakespeare he had no scenery j but 
just as the poet could afford to despise a moon on a 
back cloth because he could paint a better moon in 
words, so Bach could provide a better, and even a mov 
ing picture, as in the rending of the veil or the laying of 
the body in the tomb, 

All these, however, are but finer offerings in place 
of the trappings and trickery of stagecraft Cleverly as 
Bach used them, they were but incidental to the motive 
of his real drama j for, as we have already seen, the 
representation of the last days of Christ was but t key 


to the better understanding of the real drama wherein 
living Christians suffered the Passion over again. 

Consequently in the St John Passion a double drama 
pursues its way from beginning to end: first a scene 
from the gospel story, told in simple but veracious 
recitative j then the more important matter, and appli 
cation of that scene to the present lives of Christians 
by means of an aria > or its acceptance by the mass of 
German believers in terms of folk-song. 

The dramatic unity of the work is preserved not only 
in the natural unfolding of the double drama, but by 
the repetition and inter-relation of musical numbers, 
including the congregational chorales. 

Such was the work which Bach made during his 
spare time in the service of a friendly employer. He 
was not satisfied to sing as a bird in a cage* The whole 
heart of the man moved out of him towards the greater 
world of real thought and action, and therefore of more 
intense art However comfortable and safe he may have 
felt in the protection of Prince Leopold, the nature of 
the artist was such that he needed the difficulties and 
dangers* of the larger world where the arts are as real 
as hunger and war, and not merely pleasant ways of 
spending empty hours* 


biographers seem agreed that the 
CSthen period was the happiest of his life, 
Its termination was due to a variety of 
reasons. There was a lack of educational facilities for 
his sonsj Prince Leopold took a second wife, and there 
after grew less enthusiastic in matters of music j and 
after a long spell of sequestered work the master felt 
the need of public service in which only could his full 
powers be brought into action. 

He would have preferred an appointment which was 
going at Hamburg} but that was snatched by a musician 
who was willing to pay for itj so Bach finally decided 
to take the portion of Cantor at St Thomas's, Leipsig, 
Thu% from being in a protected position where he was 
able to do almost as he pleased in a little world of pure 
art, he became a subordinate official and pedagogue in 
a o>mpative!y large world 

But what a wwld! 

The pri&te of Atthtalt-Cdtlim wm E superior eitmple 
of Gmm royalty. As we have see% the majority of hm 
brother princes were vtmfww of the worst 


Lucky the German province where the ruler had a cer 
tain degree of good nature* 

At this time Saxony was being ruled by Augustus the 
Strong, regarding whom Carlyle amusingly and con 
temptuously rhapsodized. That prince had a bevy of 
mistresses who bled his people white. Instead of patron 
izing art he patronized artistic debauch, Enormous fes 
tivals were organized, and large bodies of soldiers and 
servants impressed to act dramatic parts upon a Rein- 
hardtian scale. For one firework eighteen thousand 
trunks of trees were used. For one tapestry six thousand 
ells of doth were wasted* Millions of dollars were ex 
pended upon a single fete* 1 

Bach's relations with that Gargantuan person were 
of little account} but, such as they were, they provide 
some amusement for the student* The composer was 
not able to get anything out of the prince (who was 
also King of Poland) In the way of artistic patronage j 
hit he effectually appealed to the royal authority when 
he found local conditions difficult* He had a taste of 
the differences existing between the civk and religions 
authorities at the ceremony of Ms installation, when 
the opposed functionaries very nearly came to blows. 

From the time of the Reformation thane had existed 
1 tug of war between the municipal and oxMbttiml or 
ganizations, The Town Councils were keen to maintain 
all they could of the power the communes had won in 


the Middle Ages; while the Lutheran officials (from 
the time they were allied with royalties) took every 
opportunity of acquiring in Protestant countries the kind 
of position and influence held in Catholic countries by 
the Roman clergy. 

The dispute at the appointment of Bach seems to 
have been an example of that opposition, the clerical 
Consistory demanding a definite part in the cere 
mony, whereas the townspeople regarded the matter as 
their own, the presence of the clerics being tolerated 
merely as an act of courtesy. It is a small matter, but 
it indicates the undercurrent of antagonism between 
the two factions which boiled beneath the master's life- 
work' from beginning to endj and by this time he had 
had about enough of it 

Of course, in such a dispute the royal authority would 
incline to support the ecclesiastical organization, though 
it might not be wise to use the partiality too openly. 
Bach saw his chance, and, when the time came, used 
the dispute to his own advantage by playing off one 
set against the other. 

At this time Leipsig was an important artistic centre, 
*Its public possessed literary interests, and was eager 
to promote national intellectual oilturej and during the 
first decades of the eighteenth century, Leipsig had 
reached the standpoint of being the centre of taste 
ruled all Germany/ It n the more tmaz% to 

Hkiwy / Tfa&fricd Jrfc, lag. ttusii, V, 33, 


learn how backward were the musical conditions which 
Bach found at the chief church. 

His actual position was that of Cantor, teacher of 
choirboys and director of music, at the church and 
school of St. Thomas, With that position went certain 
more or less honorary duties, including those of director 
of music at the university church of St. Nicholas} and 
in connection with the university there was a musical 
society which gave one or two concerts each week- 
It seems to have been Bach's policy to develop the 
honorary parts of the work. In fact he came to look 
on them as the chief objects of the appointment, and 
sought to establish in the form of regulary salary 
such payment as had been made to his predecessor in 
the form of honorarium. So doing he appealed to the 
burghers against the clerics, and to the king over the 
heads of the university authorities j and if he did not 
gain til he hoped, at any rate he succeeded in improv 
ing and enlarging the position for which he was orig 
inally engaged* 

At the time of his appointment he was generally re 
garded as one of the chief musicians in northern Ger 
many. He retained the title of honorary CapeUmeister 
to the Prince of Anhalt-Cdthe% and to that was added 
the title of Capellraeister to the court of WeissenfeJs, 
a gay court where the religious part of his nature could 
certify find BO eac0tim|pmefit But while he was 
thus tecurifig himself wmplakts wane made that he 


neglected the drudgery of the work at St. Thomas's. 
Because he was Bach we look back with sympathy on 
his slackness in the training of choirboys. We have 
the usual regrets that a great artist cannot be placed in 
a position of pensioned honour, and his work be left 
to his own willj but we may be wrong. He was orig 
inally so anxious to get the appointment that without 
persuasion he promised to be responsible for the boys' 
Latin as well as their music and discipline. 

Bach lived at that crucial moment in Christian civi 
lization when music was about to leave the sphere of 
religious expression and pass into the sphere of enter 
tainment Bach stood to Christian music very much as 
Aeschylus to Greek drama. 1 

The Cantor had been obliged to sign the Concordia 
formula, an agreement which betokened the definite 
subordination of Christian principle to commercial 
power. Yet he had an inner sense of the great religious 
work which he was still to do a work which could 
not be done in the seclusion of a little court appoint 
ment, nor in his new conditions either unless he could 
manage to shape the material to his need. 

Tfee material was unpromisiBg enough* The choir 
boys were almost beggars, without dkijiine or mtislcal 

So for we imay welt symimthke with the creative 
artist, lor lie $eenxed once again fitced with a life of 




miserable and almost hopeless drudgery. But the fact 
remains that he could not have carried out his creative 
work without that sort of public appointment, however 
unsatisfactory its details. 

None of the greatest artists have continued to create 
works without relation to the needs of the public. Even 
Wagner during his exile wrote for the public of a dem 
ocratic ideal which was not realized in his time* Such 
necessary relation between great artists and the greater 
world is not because of anything idle or weak in their 
own natures* On the contrary, it is because without 
such a relation their powers cannot be brought into full 
activity. Great artists are in relation to the greater 
world of men and women as great ships to the seaj 
they can only float in deep waters. At all costs the build 
ing slips of the shipyard must be related to the move 
ment of the tides, and at all costs the work of great 
gemus must be related to those emotional tides which 
rise only in, a large consensus of human feeling, 

Bach*$ various relations with royal, clerical, and 
municipal authorities may easily be interpreted to his 
distdvantagej but his methods of procedure were in- 
eatable if he WES to hold that necessary public position 
tud it the mine time any out his equally necessary 
public function* A refusal to recognize the element of 
necessity k the production of great art is merely the 
cy&kal frame of mind of the mm (was it Richelieu?) 


who recognized no necessity in the demands of life 

That Bach succeeded in his rather devious ways dur 
ing those early years at Leipsig shows that to the faith 
of a Christian he was forced to add something of the 
mentality generally associated with the name of Machia- 
velli. With the need he had to safeguard his own cre 
ative life there was also the need he had to bring up 
a very large family of children on seven hundred 
dollars a year. 

No wonder that he was forced at times to consider 
financial matters as of urgent importance, demanding 
even an appeal for support to a king whom he must 
have held in contempt and aversion- 

For an understanding of his real mind at that time it 
Is necessary, as usual, to study the music which he was 
producing, and not so much the documents which re 
veal only the cautious language which he used in his 

The cantata first chosen for his trial sendee at Leipsig 
was DM w&hr&r imd D0wd*s Sahn* It had been 
composed at C5then and represents his inuaermost feel- 
w$& dwwg Mss life there feelings far removed from 
ttie unalloyed Eappiiiess which he h supposed to have 
eiycyecl Its choice wnt probably due to Bach's feel- 
Ing i$ artiit, for it is Eot only suitable in what it 
rweafe of the general Christian faith of tfant time 


it is also one of the very finest of his earlier cantatas. 
For sheer mastery of the webs of polyphony it would 
be hard to instance any music more delicately intricate 
than the first number, while the references to tradi 
tional tunes mark a reversion to the superpersonal feel 
ing which is always to be found in the master's finest 
work. But DM wahr&r Gott is a work of pain, almost of 
pessimism; and evidently Bach did not wish to make 
that kind of impression at his trial service. Moreover, 
the first, and in some ways the most wonderful num 
ber, involved the employment of a clever treble soloist, 
and he had discovered that his Leipsig boys were 
scarcely trustworthy. 

So Bach set to work to make a cantata specially for 
the occasion; and if the words of Du w&krar Gott 
accurately express his feelings when deprived of living 
Christian intercourse* the words of the cantata J#w$ 
mhm aw mh dfa Zwolf# no less clearly reveal the 
mood in which he took up the new appointment. 
Equally with the other cantata is the work one of 
pietist tendency. Well for me/ my Bach IB the second 
mimber, *! I ctn thoroughly understand to my comfort 
tibe meaning of this time of siiffering nd dettk* In 
the ability of the twelve disciples to understand Christ's 
words Bach uses pointed reference to the inability of 
die official Lutheran officials to amy out their real 
duties, *There is t longing for the things of the world 


and for great houses/ 1 says Bach, for the libretto is 
almost certainly his own. But he will not end on a note 
of disheartenment, and in the final chorale we get an 
echo of medieval hope, expressing the will that 'the 
new life may come even here on this earth.' 

This cantata Is apparently harder, but actually easier 
to perform than the work first chosen. The difficulties 
are almost entirely in the organ part, and that Bach 
evidently filled out himself at the time, much of it hav 
ing been left by him in a skeleton form- Then it needs 
a smaller orchestral body, and has no treble solo part 
for incompetent boyhood to spoil. From the vocal point 
of view Jesus whm is more grateful to sing in the 
chorus as well as the solo parts} and though it touches 
moods of deepest pathos it ends with the sort of chorus 
which sends away an audience in good spirits* 

Carlyle said that the chief function of music is to 
utter the praise of God* Hugo Wolf gave expression 
to the same idea when he said that music reaches its 
highest powers in exultation. We have already learned 
that Bach knew the depths of sorrow, and was very 
ready to express themj but, given a real chance, no 
composer soars to such heights of joy as he, and in some 
ol the early Leipsig compositions he makes trial flights. 
The most definite of these is his setting of the Magmfi* 

* The building of big house* lor rich burghert w& aa typical of the 
so-called Renaissance *# the building of cathedral* in the uth and 


cat. In that work and in certain numbers from the 
cantatas Die Elenden sollen e$sen and Die Himmel 
erzMen there is rapturous music j and if the early 
works of the Cothen years expressed the happy relief 
he then felt in his first taste of congenial material con 
ditions, in these early Leipsig works there is the nobler 
relief of an artist who has now the chance to express 
ideas which have too long been denied utterance. 

The first cantata actually composed at Leipsig has 
reference to the subject of Dives and Lazarus, a subject 
so dear to the hearts of the people everywhere that 
they have themselves made folk-songs upon it. In 
such ways was Bach forced from within to identify him 
self with the common people of Christendom and of 
Leipsig. And in that, as in most of the early Leipsig 
cantatas* the importance of the chorale, the people's own 
song, is reasserted. Certain recitatives are included (in 
serted by JBach himself?) with a very plain meaning, 
Unfortunately for English people most of those reci 
tatives are translated with so obviously weakened a 
meaning that their original Intention has scarcely been 
appreciated* Thus Baches Wm Mft d$$ Pm*p$$rs M0;>j"~ 
ttt 9 which I suppose is the German equivalent for c What 
avails the royal purple 1 is given In one English transla 
tion as What profiteth pomp*s high estate?* Thus is 
Bach's deliberate meaning glossed. Such phrases are Im 
portant as indicating Bach's opinions. The one just 
quoted docs not stand alone* In Di* Hmm#l &rzahl$n 


Professor Terry with a fairer courage translates as 

Our men of wit do folly talk 

And Belial's form in God's own house doth stalk ; 

and many thoughts akin to those are evidence of the 
pietist or popular core of Bach's art, however he may 
have been forced, for the sake of his livelihood to pre 
tend a more orthodox belief. 

Bach produced those first two Leipsig cantatas, and 
then there was a sudden change of librettist. Perhaps 
someone in authority was not entirely pleased with the 
thoughts expressed by the new Cantor. 

The cantatas which followed were apparently not to 
words selected by the composer himself, but the Un 
known librettist continued to insert surprising recita 
tives a little more cautiously perhaps, not in such a 
way as might upset officially sensitive persons, but defi 
nitely stating ideas like those we have learned to asso 
ciate with Bach himself. Thus in the cantata which 
Immediately followed the two above-mentioned the 
Cantor seemed to be directing his thoughts at the very 
people who had objected to the real Christianity of his 
previous works* ^Hypocrisy, is a foul spawn, * . . Gu* 
It be that Christians are to that evil tempted? . 
T% some with natures devilish outward as angek 
MOU * * * Caliimny, fette, twdc-Mting, abuse and 
sighting are their besetting 
* 14*. 


One or two further outbursts Bach permitted himself 
i the cantatas generally credited to his first year at 
^eipsig, notably in the Good Samaritan cantata (No. 
64.) in which he turns and fairly lashes his opponents; 
art for the rest he settles down into a heaven-in-the~ 
weet-bye-and-bye frame of mind, and gives his inmost 
eelings rather in the music than the words* Thus there 
s the angry music to the words c Fret not thyself, O 
ouV in Cantata 186* When a man utters such words 
n accents of fury we have either to look upon the 
natter as a joke, or understand that the occasion is 
terious and indignation cannot or will not be easily 
suppressed* This number exactly gives Baches own 
frame of mind* He was realizing bitterly but very defi 
nitely that for him to insist on giving out in clear and 
terms the truth that was in him would mean his 
complete tuppretiiot*. Things hid come to such a 
pass that a Christian might no longer advocate Chris- 
tm&ty eicept in the way of hypocrisy* In his Good 
Siiiiarittfi cantutt he had cried out, *Ye who call upon 
Christ 1 ^ name, where is your love tad ehsyrity*j and 
again Only by love and charity sure we made Godlike/ 
which seems mother way of expressing Blake's idea of 
At nature of dlwrilty; *Jesu$ n the only god, and to 
urn I f and so we you** Thtt seems to htw been Btch*i 
last iwbid statement of hk Wkf for thtl yetr it any 
rate. As Byte concealed his ideas in an obscure and 
monstrous mythology. Bach mwmled bit mm if* 


fectively and more beautifully in music. Whenever 
thereafter he was able to emphasize his belief indirectly 
he did so. For example, when he wrote a cantata for 
the newly elected Town Council, he (again like Blake) 
referred to his city as Jerusalem} but as the poet asso 
ciated the city with England's green and pleasant land, 
so Bach associated his Jerusalem with such lines as <0 
dwellers by the lime trees/ the lime trees of Leipsig, 
and showed once again that for him religion was not a 
matter of the skies only, not a matter of the past history 
of Syria, nor a matter of the hereafter when he would 
be gonej but a very present concern of the life he was 
sharing with his fellow citizens. 

Nevertheless, from that time onwards, for the ex 
pression of the real Bach and his time, we must look 
chiefly to his music, and above all to the increasing 
importance which he gives to the chorales. By his use 
of the people's own songs and dance-rhythms he con 
tinued to maintain contact with the spirit of his religion 
as it had flowered most wonderfully in the Middle 
Ages. From that time until his death the chorale is the 
kernel of Ms work, and Its influence Is to be found 
even k the so uitHixly a place as Ms setting of the Latin 

The form In which we now have Bach's MagmfitMt 
does not give Ms real and original idea of the work* 
For Mm it was almost dramatic in form, Its performance 
at CWitois being traditionally associated in the church 


with the actual rocking of the baby Christ's cradle, 
German interpolations being added to the Latin text the 
more definitely to point the real and present meaning 
of the work. In that way it corresponds to the bilingual 
carols which Protestant peoples maintained against of 
ficial attempts to insist on the foreign and generally 
meaningless tongue. Even as we have Bach's Magnifi- 
cat, there remains the beautiful Swcapt with its chorale 
in th& %n$tnm$ntd part, and the gusto with which the 
music lays tremendous emphasis on the antithesis of rich 
and poor, mighty and meek* Once again it must be 
noted that the effect is obtained less by the words than 
by the emotion of the music itself* 

One other lovely and significant work belongs to 
1723, the motet, J#M m$m Premde* It was written 
for the funeral of the wife of one of the master's old 
friends at C5then* 

Bach had now reached the fullness of his power, and 
had taken fair measures of what he could and could not 
do in the irreligious dreumstances of his time. He was 
tMrty-eight yours of age, and had written about a third 
of his complete output. The remaining two-thirds were 
to be composed during the ncct twenty-seven years of 
Mi life. 

The long and amazing period of productivity which 
followed cannot be traced here in any detail, nor is such 
t course for this pwtioiltr study. It remains 


therefore to record the few, mostly unpleasant, inci 
dents of his life at Leipsig, and to indicate the out 
standing features of his mature work. The great bulk 
of his church cantatas was still to come, and they have 
yet to be examined in relation to his detailed develop 
ment That would take us far beyond the limits of a 
book of this kind. Those cantatas, with the two Pas 
sions and the B minor Mass, definitely establish the 
fundamental Christianity and dramatic genius of the 
master according to the principles already outlined. 

The order in which the cantatas were written has 
been suggested by Spitta,' and confirmed or corrected 
by Schweitxer, Prout, and Terry. Their reckoning gives 
thirty-seven cantatas to the years 1724-1727, and one 
hundred and twenty-two (including the Christmas Ora 
torio) to the last part of Bach's life. The two groups 
are divided by the composition of the St Matthew Pas 
sion, while the later cantatas mostly cover the period 
in which the B minor Mass was undergoing Its proc 
ess of slo^ accretion. 

4j aa example of Bach's will to relate Ms superb 
mastery to his conception of service iit the 
cause, wMle making allowance for the p^uliar 
a^db$t which he had to strive during his 

etrltr years at Ldpslgy let w examine the cantata 
% in Tt^&mdm* It bekmgs to the second 
life <mttwliip whm he hid mmd to strafe 
tie 4etderij^ 


The words were Luther's own, so no one would object 
to them. The inefficiency of the choirboys had to be con 
sidered, so the difficulty of the treble line was reduced 
to a minimum. Of the seven sections only one has a 
treble line of any difficulty so far as the chorus is 
concerned, and only one other any difficulty for a solo 
treble, while the worst difficulties were lightened by 
the fact that the entire work is really a series of varia 
tions upon the original hymn-tune, a tune which every 
body knew already, and would with the greater interest 
follow in the masterly musical changes presented by 
Bach the imitative passages in diminution succeeded 
by an amazing ragtime Hallelujah chorus, the powerful 
bass figure for man*s bondage to death in pre-Christian 
times, the laughing joyousness which accompanies the 
breaking of the bonds, the almost physical struggle be 
tween life and deathj and when it would seem that 
nothing of happiness remained to be expressed the new 
waves of joy which arrive in a change of superficial 

This work Is particularly notable became of it splen* 
did example of the cumulative climax in the first chorus, 
To-day that tort of diiimi is expected as a matter of 
course; it is the most exciting sort of effect in choral 
mid orchestra! writing, and once the trick it learned is 
fairly cany to majnage. Because Bach used it ott this 
occasion so magnificently if may be worth while asking 
why he did not use that kind of effect more often. 


All the greatest art in the world will, I think, be 
found to have a static quality so powerful that its 
climactic point is unobserved, because definitely subor 
dinate to the complete conception. Unless for technical 
reasons we deliberately seek it out we are not specially 
aware of the highest light m a great picture, or the 
climax of a fine piece of music j we accept the climax in 
relation to the work as a whole. If we do become aware 
of a climax as such it means that our attention has been 
drawn from the central significance of the art-work. 
Third-rate artists make us aware of their climax by 
saving it up for the very end of a poem or piece of 
music, or by stabbing our sight with a high light out 
of graduated relation to the rest of the picture* First- 
rate artists almost always coax our sight by degrees, or 
in music and literature allow themselves room to relieve 
the passion which may be aroused by the climax* Bach's 
carelessness, not to say contempt, for effects of climax, 
was such that in his cantatas the most powerful moment 
nearly always comes in the first number, generally 
a chorus which states the central idea of the whole 
cantata j what follows is the detail which flows from that 
greatest moment It is the feature of his work which, 
more than any other, causes us to feel its sculptural 

Musical art which has become only a form of idle 
has always a great need for cBmxes-' 
and more of thei% tiU we scarcely know where 


we are, but are carried away with the nervous excite 
ment of it all. It is therefore rather the characteristic 
of a decadent age when a feeling for what is beautiful 
needs at best the sort of whip which a climax applies, 
and at worst the aesthetic analogy of noisy intoxication. 
Finally it defeats its own end, and we have the sort 
of c art' which in our time is not even content to be called 
Modern, but demands to be called Futurist as it staggers 
down into the pit drunk in the early morning, nosing 
for climax before work has even begun. 

The number of duets for treble and alto which Bach 
wrote about this time seems to show that he was really 
taking pains to improve his boys* singing, His solos 
were nearly always for alto, tenor, or bass during the 
early Leipsig years j but if he could not trust any of his 
boys with a solo he at least 'began to use one or more 
of them in the stricter harness of concerted numbers. 
Moreover, duets for treble and alto would enable him 
to teach them all something during those practices 
which were unattended by adult members of the choir. 
Some of the cantatas certainly contain treble lines, and 
especially treble chorus lines, of considerable difficulty j 
but on the whole he stuck to the plan of giving to 
the top line of his great choruses the simple statement 
of a chorale which would already be known j and the 
plan influenced him to the end of his days- For us it 
has the defect that It does not fairly employ the 
sopra no$ of our modern choral societies. For Bach it had 


the advantage that he had the less need to give time to 
the drudgery of practice. He could in his own compo 
sitions cover up the deficiencies of his boy singers by 
the general splendour of his choral and organ technic; 
but that was a method which did not give any oppor 
tunity for improvement in what was the essential weak 
ness of his own choir, and the Town Council soon 
began to raise objections. 

The Council complained that the Cantor was neglect 
ing his duties. Bach replied to the effect that when boys 
were chosen for admittance to the School of St. Thomas 
no sufficient consideration was given to their musical 

Besides the limitations which the master suffered in 
that regard there were serious orchestral deficiencies. 

Among his duties was that of giving instruction to 
such boys as seemed likely to shape as instrumentalists} 
and that was a very meagre field for hopeful work* 
Indeed from the composer^ own point of view the 
situation must have seemed preposterous, the more so 
because he was eren then engaged upon the St Mat 
thew Pfctsdbn* To make matters worse Bach had quar- 
relied with some of Ms colleagues, musical and clerical* 
Ha hid been unjustly treated quite early on being 
$ij&r$eded in t minor duty by a wy minor miMcian* 
j&* it tad kwlwl the kw of actual money Bath had 
appealed to the king, and the authorities had been 
Id compromise. Then the Cantor got into the 


sort of dispute between parson and organist which 
goes on to this day, regarding the choice of music. It 
would almost seem that the diplomatic qualities the 
composer had shown in his efforts to get his own way 
did not extend to the constant suavity of manner re 
quired to keep himself in good report. That, I think, 
in the obverse and unhappy side of a genius which 
needed for its fair development both public position 
and private retirement. During the composition of such 
a work as the St Matthew Passion everything in the 
nature of public duty must have seemed a dead-weight, 
everything in the nature of musical drudgery a positive 

We may well ask ourselves why, having written so 
beautiful a work as the St John Passion, Bach should 
think it necessary to make another music of the same 
kind, Part of the need may have arisen in the feet 
that he was expected to provide a continuous succes 
sion of composition for each church year* 

Neither Bach himself nor his contemporaries had 
the pretentious idea that art-works are immortal* Art 
was still a healthy activity by menus of which the 
humaa crgamsm threw off leaves and flowers and $ecte 
of the mind, tud for oich tticceisive season there wts 
imtirally a new lowering. With our liter &d degen~ 
ertte ecmcBptkm of the nntert of iiispmtioB tn orded 
of iwrt-wwto raay teem odkl-blooded and op- 
to the J0wtom of artMtk gemui* We Jbtve the 


amazing mass of Bach's warm-blooded music to prove 
the contrary. Handel also was wonderfully fertile, but 
a very much smaller proportion of his work carries 
the proof of its inspired quality. 

What then do we mean by inspiration? 

The romantic idea is that a certain type of mentality, 
called the creative or artistic genius, is suddenly pos 
sessed by a good or evil spirit, whereupon the mortal 
artist becomes a sort of spiritualistic medium and ca 
pable of translating into material forms ideas or sug 
gestions which have their origin in another world than 

The impersonal element which undoubtedly exists in 
the work of the greatest artists does not however derive 
from another world: it arises in the fact that emotions 
which are experienced by a great number of people at 
the same time are extraordinarily increased in pressure 
in the separate persons who make up that number, and 
especially in those who work in emotional materials* 
The heightened moods of an excited crowd are, I sug 
gest, only a more vulgar example of the fevers which, 
transmuted into ordered sound and colour, result in 
works of inspiration. 

Under such pressure the impossible becomes pos 
sible, as when the Bastille was stonned and taken by 
the French people* Carlyle's comment regarding that 
occasion is very much to the point: *Hast thou consid 
ered how each maa*s heart is so fcremulomly responsive 


to the hearts of all men? How their shriek o indigna 
tion palsies the strong soulj their howl of contumely 
withers with unfelt pangs? The Ritter Gluck confessed 
that the ground-tone in the noblest passage of one of 
his noblest operas was the voice of the populace he 
heard at Vienna crying to their Kaiser, Bread, bread! 
Great is the combined voice of menj the utterance 
of their instincts which are truer than their thoughts; 
it is the greatest a man encounters among the sounds 
and shadows which make up this world of time.' 

A, gathered fury may find a massed physical expres 
sion as in the taking of the Bastille, and no single person 
stand as hero of the occasion j but a gathered emotion 
baulked of its natural crisis may miss physical expression 
and yet, in the mind of a sympathetic person reach a 
certain outlet. Then it may appear as if the expression 
is due almost entirely to the ^greatness* of the person 
who expressed it, whereas, as In Bach's case, it is but 
the conductor which takes the lightning charge* The 
emotions of the revolt against the betrayal of Chris 
tianity were proved Erst and physicaUy in the Peasants 
War and the contemporary revolts throughout Chris 
tendom* Deeds of ma-herolsm were then done com 
parable to the tating of the Bastille* When the crisis 
had passed, and the physical revolt had been suppressed, 
the emotions still lingered j but having no hopeM 
means of escpreasion in action, those emotions were con- 
dtacted into such dhtm^ls at popular songs, hym% 


and works of fine art It is those emotions of the sup 
pressed reality of Christianity which have remained as 
the motive force of the greatest European art to this 

So long as there was any present reality or possibility 
of the general acceptance of Christian principles as 
the basis of civilization, so long did the worship of the 
Holy Family at the Christmas celebration remain the 
centre of popular expression in art, and therefore of 
what we call inspiration. But when Christendom had 
been conquered in the association of human greed with 
the genius for government, the chief celebration of the 
popular Christian year was transferred from Christmas 
to Black Friday when the noblest conceivable human 
being suffered for taking the popular side against the 
powers of established religion and government* 

Venice, the last of the medieval communes to en 
dure, produced so kte as 1500 the pictures of Giovanni 
Bellini in one of which the chief of the government 
kneels in a worship to a peasant girl and her btby. 
That was the expression of the mass-feeling in Venice 
even in the fifteenth century* But in Baches day the 
prevailing ma$s-expr^mon was one of defeat j and so 
whereas for Christmas he wrote ouJy a number of 
occasional church cantatas (and those partly adaptations 
from earier and even secular works), lor the celebra 
tion of what rtiEiined real k Chiii^aiiity he wrote 
ote, but few* 


Of the four two survive. They belong to periods 
when the master himself was in an abnormal state of 
emotional life. At Cothen, where he had no outlet for 
his most intense feelings but the vague suggestiveness 
of instrumental forms, he produced the vivid Passion 
according to St. John* At Leipsig during the years 
of his struggle with the Town Council for the dignity 
and financial rights of his office, he composed the calmer 
and more deeply rooting work according to St. Mat 

Schweitzer says that the Jesus of the St. Matthew 
Passion is more human than the 1 Jesus of the St. John. 
If so it is not due to any of the words or musical 
phrases allotted to the central character, but to the 
string accompaniment with which- the part is associated 
in the later work, and even more to the fact that in the 
St Matthew the significance of the character is trans 
mitted, even more than in the St* John by the actual 
singers and especially (note the fact) by the chorm, 

In the greater Passion the soloists are more dosely 
bound up with the choristers. There are* no fewer than 
sk very important numbers for soloist &&d chorus a 
fact which nmy cause w to retail the relation between 
tolo and tutti in the coticertos* Then sewai of the mm 
re mtrtel to be mmg by Choras I or Chorus II, 
tho^b I am not sure whetibear that wns ineaat to indi 
cate that a whole section of the chorus should sing 
the aria, or merely that the soloist should be drawn 


from this or; that side of the church choir. In any case 
it is clear that the essential drama of the work, which 
in the St. John Passion we found to exist chiefly in the 
arias, has in the St. Matthew Passion been subtly trans- 
ferr^d to the choral mass. This seems to have been no 
mere predilection for choral tone, but an artistic expres 
sion of the great religious fact of Bach's time, the Pas 
sion of the people themselves. The choruses which are 
set to gospel words are short and almost incidental in 
the St, Matthew Passion. If stage performances were 
in question they would be more manageable in the St. 
Matthew than in the St. John choruses j nevertheless 
the stage drama is even more removed from the later 
than from the earlier work. The St, John Passion ap 
proached the whole story much more objectively, and, 
except for the arias, more historically* The later Pas 
sion is more subjective throughout and refers to the 
historical Jesus only with sufficient emphasis to relate 
the symbol to the religious reality in Bach's own time. 
In the earlier work the central figure is set up as a 
special example to Christians of all time, and dominates 
the whole drama j in the later work the central interest 
passes from the personality of Jesus to those actually 
engaged in the act of musical worship. 

For us that may be a little hard to appreciate be 
cause both Passions have become works of art first of 
all, and remain works of religion only in an historical 
sensej while as for having any real validity at the r 


pression of our own beliefs and actions that is ruled 
out of account by the whole tendency of modern life in 
all so-called Christian countries. We hear those Pas 
sions in concert-rooms, and call the occasions 'per 
formances.' More rarely they are given in churches, 
but only as special events, not because they serve the 
urgent need of any of the ecclesiasticized bodies 
Roman, Anglican, Nonconformist, Jewish, Christian 
Scientist, or any other. 

A more real or if you will, a more musical Chris 
tianity existed in Bach's day, troubled and suppressed 
though it was. Works like the Passions were a vital 
part of the life of the cultured community j and it 
would seem that there was a greater number of or 
dinary men and women capable of appreciating such 
works* The growth of mechanized industry has been 
associated with a growth of population, but there is 
now a smaller proportion of folk who can without spe 
cial technical study appreciate these religious works 
of Bach, and a still smaller proportion of singing folk 
who can perform them with the amount of preHimitry 
study given by the forces at the disposal of the master 
of Ltipsig* It shows a real lack of understanding of 
the nature of the works when, as at our chief musical 
festivals* they ait indeed in progtmrnmes cheek by 
jowl witH the ironies of modem music la Bach's day 
the only pltce for the Mass Wit the Maisnsemce, and 
only pltce for the Buttons wi$ the great animal act 


of worship which had its roots in the most primitive 
rite of spring, and was regularly celebrated on the day 
called Good Friday. 

Therefore to appreciate this Passion as it sprang from 
the mind of its composer it is necessary that we forget 
every concert-performance we have ever heard, and try 
to approach it as the Leipsig congregation approached 
it when they assembled to do their part humble, but 
none the less musical and real in the church of St. 
Thomas in 1729, 

The opening chorus gives the clue to the work- One 
group of singers is invited by another group to share 
their sorrow, insisting upon its present nature, not re 
ferring to Christ as a personage who had lived in the 
past, but as to one who is living with them in the 
present. They emphasize the actuality of the occasion 
by appealing, not to history or memory, but to sight. 
'See Him,* *Look, for love of us His cross He is 
bearing! * This is not a Christ who died in Jerusalem 
centuries ago, but a Christ who was bearing his cross 
then and there with the Leipsigers themselves. Those 
who sang were men and women of Saxony, calBng to 
each other as they gathered together from the two sides 
of the street. 

After the exfcrE0r<iinaty reality of tliat opening dbonis 
the gospel narrative in mitttwe seems curiously re* 
mote and tmrett Tfatt iweaBtf it mpfaumxedl by tEe 
chortle wMd* foJJbroj tad wfatlwr or EC* the cfaorofe 


was sung (as I believe) by the congregation itself, the 
mere usage of the popular tune was enough to draw 
their feelings into the work in a more intimate way. 
The greater musical beauty of the chorus and chorale 
on either side of the incidental recitative is of itself 
enough to show where the real meaning of the work 
lies. If to that you answer that it proves the work to be 
one merely of musical art and not of religion it will be 
honest of you, but scarcely satisfactory in a civilization 
which still calls Itself Christian. 

That the chorales were meant to be sung by the con 
gregation at large has been disputed. But imagine at 
the present day a large body of people hearing a tune 
well known to them. If there is nothing to prevent 
them, a few will begin to hum the tune, then more 
and more, until sooner or later they break into the 
actual words. 

Had Bach intended to have checked that tendency 
we may be sure that he would have used tunes less 
generally known j but that would have made an end of 
the Passion service as he conceived it, which apparently 
wms to keep aglow in the minds of Ms fellows the idea 
that in every person there esdsted the possibility of 
moral growth End physical courage like that symbolized 
by the story of Christ t morale which in earlier cen 
turies bid stved Western Europe firom imperial deoi* 
deuce and feudal anarchy. Whether it would save them 
from the new anarchy that was coming upon them in 


the guise of a mechanical civilization, or from the new 
financial despotism, was another matter. Of those evils 
the masses of men were suspicious, though not fully 
aware j and they were certainly incompetent then to 
save themselves. But it was to preserve their essential 
Christian brotherhood in face of an evil which they had 
begun to fear, but did not fully understand, that many 
of them had got into the habit of meeting together in 
religious services sucfi as these Passions, 

The same choristers who at one moment were sing 
ing words of Christian devotion were presently singing 
the anti-Christianity of priests, especially *chief priests' 
(I suppose to-day they would be called bishops), 
Ascribes* (leader-writers?) and elders of the people 
(aldermen and councillors?) The double role was no 
mere economy of musical forces. Bach had already 
divided his choralists into twoj had he chosen he could 
have named one group for the sinners and the other for 
the saints. But was it not an essential principle of Chris 
tianity that the opposing powers of good and evil were 
present in every single human being, awaiting only 
conditions of advantage for development? Was not the 
Christian fight taking place, not only between those 
who were acting for or against Christian principle, but 
also to a lesser extent in the hearts of each separate 

Is such a P^on^drama less dramatic because Its life 


is internal, its action unstageable, and its characters 
all Every mans? 

Every time the singers declared the Pharisaical vir 
tues of those, who rebuked an act of love in the name 
of prudence or alms-giving, they were declaring vices 
which rose in their own hearts. 

Every time they sang of the treachery of Judas it 
was of a treachery which was always possible because 
of the weakness of themselves* Notice that the sorrow 
ful chorus, *I$ it I?' of the historical disciples is fol 
lowed by the more real chorus of the Leipsicers 'My 
sin it is which binds thee,* 

However^ it was not only the vices of the anti- 
Christian spirit which they realized as rampant in their 
recent and contemporary history j it was also the pos 
sibilities they carried within themselves of struggling 
for a Christian world. Thus, the Agony in the Garden 
having been introduced by formal reminder of gospel 
narrative, there follows the wonderful piece for tenor 
solo and chorus which transmutes it from an historical 
or legendary thing to an individual and general ex 

Continually in the ccmr&e of the work it happens that 
the idea raised by the story, and made vital and moving 
by the qwMty of the mime, becomes essentially a topi- 
dl affair. 

Christ bomnd and led k procemon through the city 
has choral cries of *Looie Mm! Leave Mini Bind 


not!' Rather a different procession to the one which 
happened a few years earlier at Thorn! For, in the 
words of Blake, 'this history has been adopted by both 
parties.' At Thorn the procession celebrated the impor 
tance of the symbol in the degradation, increased suf 
fering, and martyrdom of living human beings. In the 
work of Bach the procession celebrated the importance 
of the human beings in the light of all that the symbol 
implied of gentleness and endurance. 

Again, the aria which follows the remorse of Judas, 
and introduces a wild and passionate sense of loss is no 
mere condemnation of an historical and single act of be 
trayal. That would have represented the usual shifting 
of responsibility from real to symbolic shoulders} and 
though that plan is entirely true to what remains of 
modem orthodoxy, it was quite contrary to the spirit 
of the noblest religious art from the twelfth century 
to the time of Bach. 

Yet again, the scourging which in the St. John Pas 
sion was a realistic portrayal of physical action, becomes 
in the St. Matthew Passion the scourging of the wor 
shipping Christians themselves. In the tenor aria, No* 
41, it had been ^gnificantly and almost secretly trans 
ferred by the actual musical phraseology* Later in the 
work Bach followed Ms usual plan: first a bare narrative 
statement of the symbolic ocxwrencei then its more 
rhythmic statement in topical locm* and then in most 
beautiful musical farm its real application to life, with 


the suggestion that pity for the scourged Christ is not 
required of the Leipsigers, but rather their maintenance 
of Christian principle in face of ridicule that more 
modern form of scourging in an anti-Christian world. 

Bach's genius reached its culmination in the St. Mat 
thew Passion. He was yet to complete a more imposing 
music, but the great Passion is the work in which the 
living spirit of Christianity is most definitely related to 
the actual life of his time. As a work of art it is as nearly 
perfect as we are likely to know. There is no pause 
in its steady dramatic development, while the passage 
from symbolic creed to real and urgent principle is 
maintained without effort or emphasis. 

In one of his many flashes of clarity Blake sang: 

I will not cease from mental fight, 
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand, 
Till I have built Jerusalem 
la England's green and pleasant land. 

Bach sang the same battle song for the Leipsigers. 
He declared the complete field and detail of their 
Imtde-drtms in one continuous searchlight of wng 
And there are no placet where the light is thrown un 
necessarily: contrarily to a common belief, thit is not a 
work wltidi on be intdli^ntly given in mutilated 
form, Hare tre t few ptones whore a strict adherence 
to words of the Bible ktawtacei imnecetsary allusions, 
hit thff $ only light tad ptidng* The essence of 
tte work les k tfee nroo numbers* the arki. 


the choruses, and of these contrary to what even so 
great an authority as Elgar has proposed not one 
can be omitted without injuring the original and es 
sential purpose of the work. 1 It is better to perform 
this Passion in its separate parts entire, or even in its 
separate scenes, than to promise the whole work and 
then, by omitting certain numbers, make it endurable 
for minds which may be offended by its length or its 

Bach can have had few illusions regarding the kind 
of performance which awaited the work. Vivid as were 
the conceptions within his own mind, the human mate 
rial of his choir and his instrumental forces were un 
equal to the occasion. Of the latter he said 'diffidence 
forbids my speaking truly of their quality and musical 
knowledge.' His regular orchestra consisted of two 
violins, two oboes, two trumpets, and a bassoon 5 and 
there exists a report which he submitted to the Town 
Council stating that the least of his additional needs 
were a double quartet of strings, a double bass, two 
flutes, drums, a third oboe or taille (English horn) 
and a third trumpet Lacking these instruments the 
composer had to get what he could of additional help 
from his boysj and if he had proved unequal to their 

*The edition of Sir Edward B%*r nd Sir Ivor Atklat h the bett 
available for use in an English translation, and if of service in making- 
die various sections dear* It error* teem to me to lie in the propoeal 
above indicated, and in the oe of at hymn (Ho. 6|) from tilt Roman 
liturgy- that is actually opposed to the ipirit of Bach's conception. 


control and training in the matter of singing, we can 
imagine that the result was even less satisfactory in 
the more difficult business of instrumental tuition. 

In the year of the production of the St Matthew Pas 
sion he was appointed conductor of the Telemann Sing 
ing Society, a university organization devoted chiefly to 
the performance of instrumental and secular music j and 
he may have had its help in the Passion service. That 
would explain some things in the orchestration of his 
chief work, including the double string orchestra, But 
whether he had such help or not the general impression 
made by this greatest of all religious choral works seems 
to have been somewhat negative; and the gloom which 
settled upon Bach after that time is something of an 
indication that the greatest achievement of his life had 
been little appreciated. 

Nor can we be surprised at that, for the Passion had 
emphasized every aspect of Christianity which the re 
spectable bourgeois Council were intent on Ignoring, 
and if possible reinterpreting in their own middle-class 

The next year brought matters to a head. 


^r THE cantata, Ein jeste Bwg, Bach foreshad 
owed the great series of chorale-cantatas 
which more than any other works after the 
St. Matthew Passion prove his inmost fidelity to his 
original principles. Ein f&ste Burg was written to cele 
brate the bicentenary of the Reformation itself, and is 
built upon one of the most popular Lutheran hymns. 
For it Bach used words which attacked the ideas of the 
official class, declaring that it was his job 'to serve 
Christ and not another.* His enemies chose, not the un 
orthodox spirit of the work, but its inevitably poor 
performance, as their line for an attack upon him. 
Bach's reply was to put in the report from which a 
quotation has been made in the previous chapter. That 
report used none of the servile terminology to which 
the burghers, now nowQ$m nch$$$ were becoming ac 
customed Thar answer was of the sort which they 
have used down to our own day: they found a way* of 
clipping his livelihood. 

Certain extra i&oneyt had in the past been divided 
between the various officials of St. Theirs Schodl 

h$ GV;r$ 


That year when the others had their shares Bach was 
ignored* He was left with his bare salary, while a 
growing family was demanding ever more of life's ma 
terial things. 

At first it was as if his creative genius had received 
a blow: what had hitherto been a torrent of religious 
and musical productivity suddenly dwindled into a thin 
trickle of minor pieces, the compulsory cantatas often 
being arranged from previously written secular and in 
strumental music* Schweitzer shows unnecessary aston** 
ishment at the quality of these works, and calls them 
^disappointing*' 1 The heart had temporarily ceased to 
function in the master's work, and he sometimes pro 
vided only the merest thread of musical texture. 

Three years were largely occupied in an attempt to 
get an appointment elsewhere. In Leipsig itself much 
of Ms energy was given to the Telemann Society* For 
that he made secular cantatas and concertos, including 
rearrangements of some of his C8then music 

Most interesting of those pieces from a biographical 
point ol view is Phoebus and Pan. It proved the com- 
bttive vitality of the master. In the moment of Ms deep 
tuidetf tad depression he was able with m m$l fund 
of inwioil wit to eater the Bits tgtifitt t critic who 
ww utiog the period of Btth*t iupc^mkiity with the 
afiddb to w0i$nd Mm itili finrther * The cptitSoii in- 
wived ws the tdWwe mlnee el tlmpk Jfelk-^irit in 


music and a more fully developed intellectual and 
emotional art. Bach is absolutely fair in his presentation 
of the controversy} and to this day when we hear the 
music it is hard to agree with the verdict. While appre 
ciating all that Bach offers in the songs of Phoebus and 
Tmolus in the way of Apollonian beauty, many will 
feel with Nietzsche that there is even more to be said 
for the Dionysian songs of Pan and poor old long- 
eared Midas and the composer's judgment seems the 
harder to support because to the Dionysian songs Bach 
added all he knew of suitable art derived from the 
Apollonian source itself! 

This burst of hearty laughter in the midst of grave 
trouble is some measure of the moral strength of the 
master; and fortunately help was approaching from an 
unexpected quarter. 

A new rector was appointed one Gesner, who had 
known Bach at Weimar, and had there learned to accuse 
the petty angularities and deficiencies of the musician's 
character for the sake ol the sincerity and genius. 

Gesner quickly made it his business to intervene on 
Bach's behalf with the Council, and the e3tra monies 
were once more forthcoming* It was lucky, for the ef 
forts Bach had made to get in, appointment elsewhere 
had met with little success^ and he was already feeling 
his way towfcrtb t very different kind of support in his 
struggle with the kirghers* If he could not secure the 
welfare ol his ftmily in the straight way of hit wait 


he must seek it at the hands of some authority which the 
burghers dare not question. 

When Augustus, the much bemistressed Saxon king, 
succeeded in mounting the Polish throne, he had had 
to foreswear his Protestant pretendings. That had been 
resented by his Saxon subjects, and his queen chose that 
particular moment to dissociate herself from him* She 
was accordingly accounted a heroine and almost a mar 
tyr by the people, and when she died in 1727 their 
feelings for her were expressed in a very definite 
manner. Bach stood in with the people, that time with 
out any need for symbolization or subterfuge, and com 
memorated her death in a most beautiful Funeral Music 
a work which later on significantly became the basis 
of one of the lost Passions/ 

The apostate king died in 1733* His successor, also 
an Augustus was a young man from whom better 
things were hoped j stilly as Polish king he was neces 
sarily a member of the Roman Church, and it was to 
gain M$ support against a possible recurrence of civic 
animosity that Bach began the composition of his B 
minor Mass. 

A superficial fatowledge of the history of that time 
might letfe IB with the impression that the Mass rep- 
iterated trotdeiiing of Btch*s own feith. The whole 

1 Whether th* k** of that Pa4*ion wa* *o ftcctdcnt, or due to on 
who wotild *vr tbe mjw*rr* cwmorjr m At ty* of predominant oftho* 

durif tkmty> it ii impottfhk to my* 


nature of his work shows that he realized how, in the 
matter o the public welfare, there was little to choose 
between Roman Peter and Protestant Paul. When any 
question of action or reality was involved both the 
ologies were on the side of the dominant class and 
against the people* So Bach might have thought as 
many good men have thought since his time that truth 
and goodness must be sought backwards in point of time, 
back to the centuries before Christendom had been 

A little more knowledge of the facts will of course 
inform us that the division of Christianity was not into 
two but into three, for there was also the Greek Church 
to tell of a yet earlier division. 

A little more history again, and we shall be shown 
how every church has been organized for the people and 
largely by their own agency $ though sooner or later 
their clerical officials have been suborned to betray the 
organization into the hands of the ruling da$$ 

Such historical knowledge may not have been avail 
able for Bachj but ait instinctive idea of the nature of 
the betrayal was common throughout Christendom, and, 
as we have already see% formed the esientia! vitality 
of the Pietist movement, thw also farming the essential 
vitality of Bach's own art* But that vitality entered Into 
the B minor Mass only Indiitsdiyj for the immediate 
purpose of the work was neither the temoe of the peo 
ple nor of their god Its primary intention was to prove 


to the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland that its 
composer was a musical artist of first-rate skill, fit to be 
engaged for the most important service. 

At first glance it may seem strange that the composer 
of the St. Matthew Passion and the Chorale-Cantatas, 
with all that they implied of popular feeling, should 
react to the very extreme of ecclesiastical and royal 
service. Bach was in a very hard position* He was good 
for nothing but music* He was prevented from using 
his only power. It was not only a question of life and 
death for his art as he conceived it, but of actual liveli 
hood for himself and family. If he submitted to the 
mean and treacherous will of the burghers he would so 
lose caste in his own heart that his creative spirit would 
be quenched. If he did not submit he would be de 
prived of the means of earning a fair living. In such 
drcumstances he preferred to serve one whose ideals 
were openly opposed to his own, rather than the dull 
mid irreligious traitors who were building up a new 
hell upon earth In the name of Protestantism, Could he 
but gain the goodwill of the open enemy by an act of 
occasional service, he could quietly continue his own 
work along the only lines which afforded him power 
and insplrationj for however much he might be bullied 
fojr the burghers so long as he propagated popular doc 
trines in his worfcii they would not dare to damage 
Mni if he were snpj?H3ited by a still higher authority* 


For the precious Protestant officials were themselves 
generally glad to come to terms with sovereign powers, 

In 1733 the first two sections of the Mass were writ 
ten, and application made by the composer for c a patent 
as Predicate of the Court ChapeP in return for what 
he himself described as 'the accompanying trifling 
work/ The appointment was not actually made until 
1736, and in the meantime the new Rector had suffi 
ciently eased the situation at Leipsig for Bach to resume 
the normal outflow of composition. That outflow 
branched out into two definite directions: on the one 
hand a series of cantatas largely for solo voice wherein 
the Cantor was able to Ignore the deficiencies of the 
local material, and on the other hand a resumption of 
chorale-preludes for organ and the beginning of a series 
of chorale-cantatas of which Em F&st# Bwg was the 
forerunner. In these latter works Bach poured out all 
that was best and noblest during Ms last years. 

Other music was written secular cantatas, the sec 
ond part of the Forty-eight, and concerted works, prob 
ably for the Tdemaan Society but the real nature of 
Bach was depressed for the rest of feis days in the 
works of which the peopled toup are the musical maib- 
stay and tibe people* Ioii|pb^ Ilie iim mod w* 

Pfcrsoiml troubles were by ito mam over* Corner 
was soot* succeeded by t lets pleasant Rector who lost 
no opportunity of making petty difficulties for Mi Can 
tor, huimliadons which were the easier to effect because 


of Bach's own hasty temper. But to set against that he 
had the background of royal support, and that made 
his enemies more wary in their dealings; and in his 
own home, and especially in his second wife, he had 
a real musical as well as domestic anchorage. What he 
owed to Anna Magdalena we can only guess by the 
number of his works which exist in her handwriting, 
and by our knowledge that many pieces were composed 
for her, sung and played by her* So with a fair idea: of 
the master's physical and mental surroundings, all we 
have to do is to glance at the chief fruit of his genius 
during hia last years, 

Shorn of the urgent emotional impulse which pro 
duced the St Matthew Passion and other works of a 
simlkr tendency, Bach naturally concentrated on his 
oraftemamhip in the B minor Mass and other pieces 
presently to be mentioned* No mime can be entirely 
emotionless and live, and Bach had such a religious 
md sincere teckground to Ws life that evea in a work 
composed to attract notice from King Augustus there 
are deep emotional values; but the beauty of the Mass 
lies chiefly in its treWtt^cdk: fwportioiis, and ii* tte 
sMU with which B^fei raarsWUb every mn- 

tal detail t his 

said t!mt for Btdi *Pwd<m wd Masses were 
write niter thmi works of t Tfa&t Is to 


not fitted for the ceremonial of the Catholic Sacrament, 
and certainly not for the service as modified by the 
Lutherans. For the first it is too deep, for the other too 
broad. The Mass service for which this work was writ 
ten was entirely personal to Bach 5 in it he is chiefly con 
cerned in developing his mastery to its highest technical 
point Whatever of vital force the Mass possesses de 
rives from a depth beyond personal understanding j and 
that derivation is such as causes Bach to give to his 
Gloria the rhythm of a country dance> to his Et Rttsw- 
rewt the measure of a Polonaise, 1 and to his Et in 
spritwm smctwn the mood of a folk-song* 

The dramatic nature of the Mass is obvious: its 
deeper roots are less obvious. 

We are told that one of the motives of cannibalism 
is the intention of acquiring the vital characteristics of 
the eaten enemy. Among more civilized peoples a finer 
feeling of worship has entered into the eating of bread 
which so obviously changes into human flesh, the flesh 
of the eater, and the drinking of wine which so ob 
viously increases the blood pressure of the drinker, 
John Barleycorn was the English folk-god of the grain 
which might become either bread or wine. And there 
were earlier gods than Christ associated with the same 
kind of sacramental feasting. Attis and Adonis are 
ainong the instances given by Prater in Tk# Gldm 

* Was thia Polombe * mbtle flattery for the Poliih kin fir? 


Bough. Fraser even tells us that the worship of Adonis, 
spirit of the corn, was native to Bethlehem, a place- 
name meaning c the house of bread.' 1 

Allusion has already been made to the fact that 
from motives of policy the Christian Church wherever 
possible took over local beliefs, transmuting them for 
its own, generally nobler, purposes. But the church was 
itself variable in its reading of the significance of the 
sacramental feast* Was it to be a real and practical 
sharing of food and drink in the communal interest? 
Was it to be a symbolic meal indicating that those 
present held common and equalitarian beliefs? Was it to 
be a communion of a more mystical nature, associating 
the communism of the feasters with the worship of 
the vital powers in bread and wine? Was it to be a 
memorial service associating the natural powers of life 
with a symbolic perfection of manhood, or godhood? Or 
was it to be a miraculous changing of natural elements 
into divine flesh and blood? 

All these varying conceptions seem to have been held 
by different sections of the Christian Church at one 
time or another j* and it is significant that from the 
most primitive to the mott supemtitioim conception of 
the Love-Featt a complete cycle of thought was made. 
Whatever of rdbtbi* to reality the Church Service 

, 0M$> bf J. 0* Fnuer, Third Edition, pp. 

0f C^m^m, by 1* HL Towmr, II, 48-50* 
of th* Early CMs&m FefJxrt, % Ugb*Bomtt| Percy 
Gardb* r s T*$ GrwtA of 


sessed seems clearly to have been based on the simple 
fact that bread and wine could be converted into human 
strength, and should in a 'holy* or sane community of 
people be shared in common. 

So, when Bach passed beyond the meanness of his 
Protestant Church, it was not to yield himself to the 
superstitions of the Roman Church it was to give the 
finest expression he could to human ideas which rooted 
far back in primitive human nature. The B minor Mass 
is of no ceremonial use to any church- It is just the 
finest architectural expression of Bach's genius j and all 
its moods are human from the first Kyri& which is not 
a prayer but a demand, to the Dona Nobis Pac&m 
which dearly enough expresses the idea that peace can 
only be won by those who are prepared to insist upon 
it. There is no passive pacifism in the music of Bach. 

Less personal in superficial conception, less remote in 
essential meaning are the wonderful chorale-cantatas. 
Throughotit his career the master ha$ used the songs 
of the people with an Increasing sense of their impor 
tance. During his last years he devoted himself to them 
^reti more emphatically. If he could not serve the cause 
of tike people in tay ret! way, be would at least give 
his ripest powers to the glorification of their songs* 
and to the lost cause whence those songs hid sprang. 

The exti^m^mry elitbomtton of Btct^s mussed 
style may lead m to forget that it was originally a 


popular style. That common share which the people 
had in the greatest works of Gothic architecture had 
indeed been lost in the greatest of all Gothic music. The 
artisans who could carve figure-sculpture with Phidia's 
own skill were in Bach's time no morej there were 
apparently a few instrumental players of similar skill, 
but that they were rapidly dying out is shown by the 
sort of music which was written by the best composers 
after Bach's death. Nevertheless it was from that old 
and popular Gothic tradition that Bach's power was ob 
tained, and when he used it to glorify the people's 
chorales he was but setting jewels in their natural sur 

Moreover, complicated though his style has seemed 
to many later musicians, he was very dose to the folk- 
spirit* His Phoebtis and Pan, the Coffee and Peasant 
Cantatas, and even such movements as Et R&smr^^ 
and the El m $fmtwm smtiwrn from the B minor Mass 
(which I have known to be taken for a Somerset folk- 
song by a woman Bving in Somerset), prove the com 
mon stuff in which the greatest of all musical geniuses 

The method pursued by lain in the chorale-cantatas 
wts varied and tppmwdy ii^dmii^tiWe* In Ms earBer 
yean at Lapiig he had written such woHb 

the Easter Cantata, Christ Ug tn Tod#sba<nden y and 
E*n /*f* Arf~tw0 of Mtttfat Lnffcr*t own 
thdhr fWM Mt for t*l% dt*ei^ ttio md 


in the form of free and elaborate variations variations 
by the side of which Haydn's and Mozart's, and even 
Beethoven's works in that form, are but elementary 

A freer course is pursued in the later chorale-can 
tatas. In some of them two or three tunes are usedj 
but the most satisfactory as art-works are those in which 
a single tune is treated in two or three important num 
bers of the work, with intervening and independent 
numbers by way of episode. Such are W &chet auf, Das 
neugeborne, Ach Gottl <me nanckas H&r%alM y belong 
ing to his earlier works in this formj and, among the 
later and rather simpler works, Ach Gott von Himm^ 
Moche dich mein Gmt b&rmt^ and Schm&cke dkh o 
lisba Beele. 

In some of these the tune is blazed out, in others 
half-hidden j in some the intervening solos are entirely 
independent, in others they have obvious thematic af 
finity with the central tune* As indicated on an, earlier 
page, there was no sort of progressive development in 
the work of Bach when once he had won his polyphonic 
technic The latest of these cantatas is the peer and not 
the progeny of the earlier works In the same form* The 
only difference between the earliest and the latest is 
in the direct fighting intention of the former and the 
secreted significance of the latter. Bach htd by this time 
come to terms with lie, He struggled no longer, but 
retired into a kind o! mental isolation and expressed 


with increasing austerity and remoteness the faith that 
was in him- It was the old popular faith which was 
known to him as Pietist. He renounced nothing of his 
innermost principles, but just accepted the external 
limitations which little minds placed upon his workj 
and within those limitations continued to prove his es 
sential power. 

What the chorale-cantatas say with some degree of 
open expression the chorale-preludes for organ say 
with exquisite subterfuge. Here was a form in which 
Bach could state every idea in which he believed, and 
he did so with such clever obscurity that only during 
our own generation have his intentions been realized. A 
general willingness to acknowledge the beauty and truth 
that expressed a popular cause has always been post 
poned until the cause has been lost. The creative im 
pulse of the common people of Christendom could 
scarcely be denied while they were taking their obvious 
share in the building of the cathedrals j for those were 
days when the popular power was great and growing. 
When their international Instrument of the Catholic 
Church had been weakened by the progressive, financial, 
and reactionary feudal daises, and the popular move 
ment was dftmped down, cathedral building slacked off, 
the paintings of the artizam were Wotted out with 
whitewash, their carols and plays <^n$ored, and the 
rittml of the popular tradition gimi an orthodox 


gloss; then all that remained of expression to the 
Christian spirit were the concealed and sometimes sub 
conscious ideas in the musk of Bach and even that was 
so far as possible, declared to be a curious scientific 
exercise, and (especially in the chorale preludes) re 
moved from the intelligible canon of European art. 
Now that Christianity is dead the feudal and financial 
coalition can afford to take pride in the cathedrals as 
museums, to uncover the wall-paintings, take a cultured 
interest in the mystery-plays, and admit the virtue of 
the music 

Bach lived to realize that the Heavenly King of 
Christian faith had been conquered by the money-kings 
of the earth} but the composer had the satisfaction of 
receiving a sort of homage from the greatest earthly 
king of his own time* The music which he wrote for 
and in which in some sort he collaborated with 
Frederick the Great has little eaqpressloaal value; but 
It enabled the old master to assert his personal peerage 
and keep the parasitic burgher rabble at bay. 

Badi lived to realize the iiial extinction of tfee 
medieval hope that the mm of men wore aJbo Sons of 
Gtod that tibe Kibgdom of Heaven wtmld come on 
earth j but he was finally true to his cause. Suffering 
many defeats, and with mmy vacillations, he held to 
the last hb faith in Hie essential value of common 
human things, and in the greater worth of their creative 


genius.' So with dead eyes and feebling breath he di<v 
tated his last tribute to that genius the chorale- 
prelude, Wenn wir in hochsten Nothen sein* 

He died on July 28, 1750, while the Christian na 
tions were preparing for the Seven Years' War, and his 
own Saxony was selling her sons to Holland and Eng 
land for the furtherance of their colonial invasions. 

i. For a fair study of Bach's organ works the edition most 
useful to English students seems to be that of Messrs, No- 
vello. It is the only edition known to me which includes a 
volume giving the chorales upon which Bach based so much 
of his chief organ music; but when so happy an idea oc 
curred to the editor it was a pity that he restricted its value 
by giving generally only one verse of the words. For full 
English translations recourse must be made to Professor 
Terry's three volumes dealing with the chorales, published 
by the Cambridge University Press. 

2, The Easter Cantata does not appear to be yet Issued 
with an English translation. Fortunately, to supply this all 
too frequent deficiency, Professor Terry has published a 
volume, Bach Cantata Texts, with English versions of all 
the sacred and secular cantatas; they are adapted to serve 
a practical purpose, inasmuch as each sentence it translated 
with the form of its musical phrase in view, 

Three of Kulmau*s Bible So&atas are published by Messrs* 
Novello, while the Caprice on the Departure of a Brother 
can, of course, be obtained la several good edition 

3* Of Bach's earlier orgaa works there are t few 
records. The Columbia Grtpfaapkme Company issues the 


Catalogue Work, 

number. Performer and Organ. 

9133 Toccata, in C major W. G. Webber, 

Christ Church, Westminster 
9133 Fantasia in C minor W. G. Webber, 

Christ Church, Westminster 
9552 Fantasia in G minor E. Commctte, 

Lyons Cathedral 
9136 Toccata in D minor G. T. Pattman, 

Liberal Jewish Synagogue 
9*29 Fugue m G major H. Walton, 

(a la Gigue) Glasgow Cathedral 

The Gramophone Company issues: 

Fantasia and Fugue in M, Dupre*, 

C minor. Queen* Hall 

D 14.01 Prelude and Fugue ki M. Dupre*, 
G major. Queen's Hall 

Toccata in D minor G. D, Cunningham, 

Kingaway Hall 

First movement from W. G. Alcock, 

Sonata In E flat Salisbury Cathedral 

CHS a Prtlttdb in D major W. G. Alcock, 

Salisbury Cathedral 
Fugue In major W. G. Alcock, 

Salisbury Cathedral 

frelBrdt and! Fugue in E. C. Bafortow, 
B mbor York Minster 

414 Prelude md Fugue in E, Gow-Ciwtard, 
G minor (small) Kmpway Hall 

141$ FngB to G minor 3fc. Goit-Ctitmrd, 

(a U Gigui) Kingtway Hall 

01 the tl>w records the best tre those by M. Ehipr& 
Only he mtiattlus a dear rhythm thjwighont The others 
btrty ta greater or lets degree the betettmg siaa of or- 
gaakti, in tUowkg rapid ftager-work to ran away with the 
rhythm* md m banging up the mtiik for changes of reglstra- 
Th records art mm tib Its* ol value to sttideatf t 


were it only in proving to them the evils into which Bach 
may be so easily betrayed at the hands of organists. It is 
an undoubted fact that first-rate musicians in our time very 
seldom take up a career in which the organ is an instrument 
of major importance; while the modern organ Is itself an 
increasingly decadent thing. 

Such evils give additional support to the plea upon another 
page that the best organ works of Bach should be scored 
for orchestra, Schweitzer disapproves of that as contrary 
to the spirit of Bach; but the student has only to study 
Elgar's orchestral version of the C minor Fantasia and 
Fugue (HMV, Dis6o) or the orchestral version of the Toc 
cata in D minor as played by the Philadelphia Orchestra 
under Stowkowski (HMV, 01428), and compare them with 
any of the above renderings except those of Dupri, to 
understand the difference between the normal organ per 
formance, at the hands and feet of even reputable musi 
cians, and what is possible from the orchestra. 

Poor Instrument its the piano is, even it can sometimes 
give more intense life than the organ, as witness the record 
of Mark Hambourg m the Toccata in D minor (HMV^ 
,1704). A comparison of the last-named work in the four 
above-meatloned records should be of real help to the 
student of Bach, and to those who seek the best means 
of propagating some of the noblest music ever written. 

It should be noted that of the works enumerated above 
oro or two were probably written or revised m Bach*s 
later years* The majority, however, belong to Ms time at 

4. Throughout Bach's career he seems to have been en 
gaged upon of an arrangements of chorale-tunes. During his 


later years at Weimar he made the collection known as the 
Orgelbuchlein (Novello, XV), short examples of the chorale- 
prelude. I cannot discover that any of these lovely little 
pieces has been recorded for the gramophone; but one of 
them, Ich ruf zu dir, has been recorded in an orchestral 
version by the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra (HMV, 

5. Of the beautiful instrumental works composed during 
the Cothen period few have been yet recorded for gramo 
phone; but a useful beginning has been made, especially by 
The Gramophone Company, First in importance are the 
Brandenburg Concerto in F major (D 1708-10), and the B 
minor Suite for flute and strings (D 1673-4), both played by 
American Orchestras* Then there is the double violin con 
certo recorded for the same company by Kreisler, Zimbalist 
and a string quartet (08597-8); and for the Columbia Com 
pany by Anton imd Alma Witek and a string orchestra 
(9681-2). Personally I prefer the latter recording, which 
has the advantage of a band, the better to give BacVs con 
ception of the concerto-idea* In the former Kreisler seems 
outclassed by Zimbalist la the matter of expression. Neither 
t&terpnstatioa gives the rapturous peace of what is perhaps 
the loveliest !ow movement ever pewaed, or the lusty 
vitality of the atlegrot* For Columbia Miss Harriet Cohea 
has played the irat eight Preludes and Fugues of the 
Fortytlgfat (Laa39^t44) &ad the Gramophone Company 
issue Herold Samuel 1 * interpretation of fche Second English 
Suite (C 1405-6). From the Trio-Soaatat for clavicembalo 
one ttoffemnt has been recorded*- upon the orgaa, 
W* Q. Aicock (Ci4|a); ift* padtl part come* 


6. The St. Matthew Passion has apparently not yet been 
recorded as a whole, and only the following arias seem 
to be available: 

No. 47, Erbarme dich (Have mercy, God), sung in Ger 
man by Rosette Anday (HMV, 01664); an d No. 58, Aus 
Liebe mil mein Htiland sterben (For love my Saviour now 
is dying), sung by Elizabeth Schumann (HMV, 01410). 
The latter is in every way nearer the spirit of Bach. The 
first is a flagrant example of the failure to give full value 
to Bach's slower movements; and moreover two ugly cuts 
are made, those responsible apparently not realising that 
the essence of Bach's later thought is more likely to be 
contained in the instrumental than In the vocal line. Both 
performances present a false relation between the singer 
and the solo instrumentalist. In the first there is a violin 
and in the second a flute, both obbligati; but both players 
treat their parts as accompaniment rather than as a part 
of a duet, and when they reach the final important instru 
mental section, play it hurriedly as if the real piece had 
ended when the singer stopped. 

That last fault is not to be found in the Aria from Cantata 
No. 159, which is given on the reverse of the second disc* 
In this Elizabeth Schumann and Leon Goosens (on the oboe) 
give a better impression of duet; though a full measure of 
equality is prevented, I imagine, by reason of the position 
of the oboe at the recording, The voice is too much on top of 
us, the instrument much too remote* However, the student 
can learn, by a comparison of the three number*, the dif 
ference between ducts for singers mad instrumentalists given 
(i) with equal disregard for the expressive value of Bach** 
slow movements, (2) with a lots hurried ttmpo but not 
enough realisation on the part of the instrumental doiit 
that he has the last and most Important impression to leave 
behind; and (3) with most exquisite artistry in both 


though the instrument fails of its full effect by reason 
of its relation to the audience. However, the final cadential 
phrase gives a perfect impression of what a concluding 
passage ought to be, even in a vocal number. 

Unfortunately in the Schumann-Goosens* record the con- 
tinuo has been played upon a piano, which unpleasantly 
protrudes its modern self. Compare that with the harpsichord 
continue in the Aria from a Christmas Cantata (No. 151) 
sung by Dora Labette with flue obbligato by Robert Murchie 
(Columbia 9247), and here, in spite of slight defects in the 
recording, we have an even better ensemble. 

The lovely funeral motet, Jesu meine Freunde, may be 
studied in four records issued by the Gramophone Company 
(458-9 and 01256-7), a performance by the London Bach 
Cantata Club conducted by Kennedy Scott; the English 
Suite in A minor (CI4OS-6) played by Harold Samuel on 
a modern piano, alas! 

7. For a study of tte B minor Mass there is at the disposal 
of the student a fine series of records, issued by the Gramo 
phone Company, giving the complete worL Allowing for the 
fact that no such records can yet give a present sense of 
performance, the orchestra and especially the chorus sound 
ing too far off, sometimes even as beyond closed doors, the 
fact remains that in inch records as these a new and Invalua 
ble adjunct to musical education is accessible, even for theme 
who have no metropolitan advantages. 

Another very important record Is the Italian Concerto 
played on the harpsichord by Mrs. Gordon Woodhouse 
(H&CV> 0ia8i#) For tfaote whose private study of key- 
board music is limited to the modern piano or organ, a record 
like this open* up a new and much truer idea of Bach's 
clavier works. Even such a performance as that of the 


Courante from the Cello Sonata in C, played with perfect 
artistry by Senor Segovia upon the guitar (HMV, 475), is 
nearer to the spirit of Bach than any ordinary piano per 
formance can be* 

Of the later organ works a few are available for the 
gramophone. The Fantasia in G minor, played by M* Com- 
mette upon the organ of Lyons Cathedral (Columbia, 9552); 
the Prelude and Fugue in B minor, played by Dr Bairstow 
upon the organ of York Minister (HMV, 1534-5), and the 
following organ-chorales: Christ unset Herr mm Jordan 
kam, played by ML Dupr upon Queen's Hall Organ (HMV, 
471), or by Dr A, W, Wilson on the organ of Manchester 
Cathedral (Columbia, 9501); Nun komm der tJ&den Hei~ 
land, played by Dr Bairstow in York Minster; Wach$t auf, 
played by M* Dupr (HMV, 471) ; and two chorales played 
by Dr Albert Schweitzer upon the organ at Queen's Hall 
(HMV, Ci543>, oae being Wtnn mr in hochsten Notkm 
smd, the last work of Bach*s life* 

The best or$;an records are those of Dupri and Schweit 
zer, though even they are not without serious defects the 
first In the undue swamping of the figuml work by the tune, 
and the second in that a too restrained effect is given, as 
though the performer sought to revive the effect* of Baches 
own organ rather than the reality of his music 

None of the church-cantatas seem to have been recorded. 
Considering the importance of the cantatas and the chorale- 
preludes in the study of the master's work, it is to be hoped 
that they will receive special attention in the near future* 
for the growing body of Bach students it undeniable. 

One other record deserves special &ttentioa the orches 
trated performance of the chorale Wir glauhen dl an tinm 
Cfo$t f 0wef$i)tm cafled the Giant Fwgst* TC$ it noorded 
in t |^rifaw0K by tht Pllladdphiii Qtthestrt (HHV, 
Diyro); and in my view entirety disposes of any objections 


which may be entertained regarding the justice of the pro 
ceeding. It brings out every separate part, which even so 
fine an artist as M. Dupr6 could not do; it gives a variety 
of colour which is deliberately absent from the performances 
of Dr Schweitzer, but is justified, I think, when we recall 
the love Bach had for all the colour effects that were available 
to him; and finally, in the degradation of the modern organ 
owing to the influence of the cinema-trusts on the one hand, 
and the acoustics of many churches on the other (for ex 
ample York Minster, which causes Dr Bairstow to fail of 
clearness In both rhythm and phrase), what was Bach's 
own chief medium of expression is no longer open to us, 
even if we had not outgrown it. The orchestra is the only 
fitting medium for this greatest of all music, and its trans 
ference has the authority of the noblest of living composers. 
Elgar*s orchestral version of the Fantafia and Fugue in C 
minor is superb (HMV, Di$6o), 

The ancient harpsichord and the modern orchestra are 
more essentially musical and expressive than the modem 
piano and the aaciem organ; therefore they are the more 
suited to the works of the composer who was not ordy the 
greatest imtisical craftsman who ever lived, but was also 
tbe deej>e*t and subtlest interpreter of human feeling* 


"Ach Gott von Himmel," 270 
<*Ach Gott! wie manche* Herze- 

leid," 270 
"Actus Tragkws," significance of, 

162 */ **<? 
JAoms* Atti$t Osirbt J* G. Fraser, 


A*chylf*t, Bach compared to> 228 

g&m#tmwfy Murray's transla 
tion* 228 

Alexander VI* pope, 104 

Augellcoj Fra a 

Aaanttrio^ Gabnele d* f 173 

Appreciation* catmd by 
faction, la 

of our, 6 ft t*q. 

of Each as an orthodox musi 
cian, t| 

e, cathedral building, 

tradition, 137 i$ J*f** 
parallel in mutk, 12! ft stq., 


Bach** activities at, 70 

f *pf, 

Art Bach** definition, 4$ 
climax 1% 14 ** Jif * 

to the real nature 01 


at WttawTf xf 
euphony w, 150 
formality of BachX $ i* ^- 


A rt ( Contimuf) 

inevitability of Bach's, 23 
in Middle Ages, ao ft seq. 
inspiration in, 244 
novelties in, 135 et seq* 
pre-war definition, 10 
product of environment, a et 

seq. y 


religious tendencies in, 9 

soul of creative, 2 

superficial characteristics of 

Renaissance, 23 

without emotion impossible, 12 
Atkins, Sir Ivor, 256 

Bach, Anna Magdalena, debt 

owed* 265 
Bach, Hans, 73 
Bach, John Sebastian, ancestors, 

37, 123 *t $&%* 
and Chr&tian struggle insep- 

amble, 52, $* *t 


and the Italian style, 130 

&q^ 144, 174 
as Cantor, 3 
M organist, 67 
at St Mkhaal 1 * Coavtnt, 37 ft 



74* 7^ ** 
S 4^5 

choice of iobjsct, 8$ 

devices nidi fe^ 45> ** ** 
144 l J*. 


f acowil quality of > 64- 
figurative imagination, 65 


Bach ( Continued) 
friendship, 9 a 

greatness, 5, 1 1 *t seq^ 1 20 
hampered, 79 *t seq n 164 *t 


Handel superseded by, 8 
harmony {see separate item) 
hidden virtuosity, 151 ** wq,* 

159 tt $*q* 
historical background, ao ft 


individuality evidenced, 8* 
inner drama of his own life, 


in private ervice } ao nS */ 
/ $*q* 
instrumental work* (w ep* 

arate item) 
involved In Pietist straggle, 96 

ft $*q* 

leaver Weimar, 187 
marriage, 89 

mental retreat, 176 */ s*q. 
mode of expression, 45, 58 *l 

*** 6 

nature of genius, 13$ 
opposing defcire> i *# iff 
Oftlwwfawr of 34t 44 
period of mental ea*e> 194 
period of pxodoctivity, 137 tt 


popWMr rebellion to the time 

of> 26 

portrait, 94 ** if , 
potitioa prccariou*, 61 ft f*q. 
product 01 eavironment, aia, 





relations wtb 

na tt 

Bach (Contmutd) 
steadiness of style, 185 
temporary degradation, 145 et 


(Xuse of polyphony (w* Poly 

^ vocal works, 141 

with the Grand Duke of Wei 

mar, 123 it seq. 
work for beginners, 194 
Bach, Maria Barbara, 89, 194 
Bach, Nicholas Ephraim, 123 
Bach, Philip Emanuel, iao 
Bach, Vek, 73 

Bach, Wiihelm Friedemjum, com 
position! written for, 194 et 

Albert Schweitzer, 4a 

> Sanford Ter- 

B&eh. Cmtete 7ii y Terry, a 34, 

Complit* Work$ % published 
by Pettrti 14 

Ludwig von, a, So 
breaking away from Italian 

artificiality, 180 
Brdai Symphony of, i $tf 
u*e of polyphony, 132 
"Btkimmeniiii,** dtiet in, 17^ 
Belling Giovanni, 173 

workt of, ^46 
Berkeley, Bishop, 36 

sceptical philosophy, 63 
Beriioas, Hector, 194 
BUke, William, a> 50, So 

iWtl sonjf, 155 
B Minor Ma*," begun, 161 

dedBcmtkm, &, 106 
<krivmtion of ^4^. 
emotional valew, ti| 

background, 261 

of, a o 


Bormann, Edwin, 94 
Botticelli, a> *ao, 150 
Brahms, Johann, 8 
Brooks, Arthur, xii 
Bull, John, compositions, 196 

technic, 197 
Bunyan, John, 80 
Burne-Jone*, Sir Edward* 44 
Byrd, William, 7, 150 

Cantata*, Christianity and com 
mon ptopie associated in, 157 
*<Coffe and Peasant,** 2*9 
composed at telptig* ^33 
earlier, 130 tt **#. 
fim tculkiv 115 
"Good Samarkand a$| 
Ho* *86* 135 
of unknown librettist, 134 
optiilsf pa**age, 171 & **# 
order of, & 38 

*W*Ofb*n aad Fa**,* 1 ^59, 1^9 
treble 1% 41 ft tfq. 
wHttta at C5tiii% ifo tl i*f* 
writ^m officially at Weiaiar, 

t 7 */ jiff* 
wrfttaa imc&eliHy *t WdsEaur, 

W ^ **?* ^ j 

o tin* Pepwrtiift of a 
Brother," evaluated, U ** 


Chorale (Continued) 
use in the Passions, 220, 250 

vitality of, 45 
(see also Folk songs) 
Chorale-Cantatas, composed, 264 
glorification of common people, 

268 ft tig. 

**Christ, der du bist der helle 
Tag,** symbolism of, 48 it 
ssq.y 60 

**Christ lag in Todesbanden,** 
based on Luther*s hymns, 269 
discussion of, 238 it sfq. 
"Chromatic Fantasia,** use of 

chords, 149 
<*Clavier^bikhleiii,** elementary 

book of studies, 198 
Clement V, pope, 27 
C Major Prelude,** humour in, 


* Minor Fugu^,** evaluated, 131 
Columbia Grabopfeoa* Co., xlt 
rtcordb isiutd by, 274 *t f^f* 
C<ic^Jffeo h D Major*** Vivaldl- 
B*ch, evaluated, 133 ft **$. 
Contllt, Arcangel^ {29 
concerto form und^r, 210 


r, Cott rcy> * 
Cbopte, Fr^Wnck, a 04 

rf* 4^ 

Bftdb leaves, 224 

It Join* Passion writtto *% 247 

Craig, Gordon, aai 
Criticum, from 


of Forkel> 14 
of Rochlit^ 44 

dr * 15 
^r ww% 14 

Ott first 



Dante, 2, So 

exile, 25 

"Das neugeborne," 270 
Debussy, Claude, debt owed, 204 
Dent, Professor, on Mozart's 

operas, 184 

"Die Elenden sollen essen," 233 
Dwtm Comtdy, Dante, 58 
"D Major Fugue/* use of chords, 

"D Major Prelude," use of 

chords, 149 
Dowland, John, 120 
Drama, as use4 by Bach, 168 *t 


evolution in, 217 *t t*g* 
Duets, for treble and alto, 341 
Dftrer, Albrecht, 62 
**J>u wahrer Gott raid David** 

Sohn," dkraseioa of, 230 9t 


translation of, 191 

"Easter C&ntata,** teeipretfttba, 

74 ** m* 

Eight Ckafttrs on Mtdbval 

Prior, ax 52 

Ellmar, friend of Bach tai 
"Bin few Borg, n bad 

Luther's hyntmt, 2^9 
occasion for writing 1 , 258 
Hgmr, Sir Edward, n 
odtUbm of, 156 
orchestral version, 276 
English Hous* y Tht, Shaw Spar 

row, 44 

Ernst, Dufce Johann, Bach is 
household of, 68 


F**st of 


Fitzwillkn Vlrginftls Book } 196 

use of keynote 1% tot l ff 
Folk fongi* Baches mt of, 115 

importance of* 127 If Jff 

in England* 


Folk son 
Italian, 173 
tradition in Germany, 128 
use in religion, 113 
vindication by Bach, 259 <tf seq, 
(see also Chorales) 
Forkel, Johann, on Bach, xi 
"Forty-Eight Preludes and 
Fugues," variety of keys 
used, 195, 304 ft seq. 
Frederick the Great, king, music 

for, 272 
"French Suite in B Minor," modu 

lations in, 103 
"French Suites," written for son> 

195 #t s#q 
Fugue, structure, 141 ** seq. 

various stages in Bach's, 147 
"Fugue in G Major," evaluated, 

Galileo, 138 
G*y> John, %6 

Germany, after the Lutheran com 
promise, 45 *t s*q. 

contrapuntal style in, 66 

nms*-exprewion In, 246 

of Bach, 30 9$ l#f* 

popular religious tongs of, 43 
G*rm*>s A. W. Holland, 105 
Gesner, aid* Bacln a 60 
Guit!do, Don Carlo, Bach j s 

predecessor, 7 

Gevairt, on musiail piracy, $9 
Giotto, 23, 140 
Goethe, Johann, 14 
Gvl&n Bwgb, TM Fntser, 118, 

"Gottej Z^t," dwt bi 176 

evalo&tion of, lit il ^ 
Gounod, Ch*l% i 
macisco, t 

tttaction to hymn*, 40 ** 
of CAritfHtmtyi 


Handbook of the Early Christian 

Fathers* Leigh-Bennett, 267 
Handel, George Frederick, copy 

ing of Italian style, 174. 
fertility, 244 
oratorios of, x i 
pliability, 147 

pre-war popularity, 8 et seq. 
Harmony, Bach's me of, 147 *t 


dramatic use of, 172 
Italian poverty, 174 
key quality, 205 
mathematical basis, 199 tt seg. 
modulation^ 20% et seq. 
primitive, aoo 

(&if afao Polyphony) ^ 

Haydn, Joaef , a 
Hegel, George, 14 

on Bach, 16 
Henry VIII, king, 144 
Hfatwy of G#rmmy> Meaa&l* 27* 
30,11,88, 106, *asaas 
of Theatrical Mr& % Mat~ 

History of tfo Italia* 
Sitroondi, 24, 104 
John, 104 

**Idi hatte viel 

accewible camtat^ 171 
lonocent XI, pope, 36 
Inatrumental workt, 141 ** 

01 Weimar period, 154 

dtos, i|i 

o^fttw for clavier and violin, 

Mf et i*q . 

Violb Concerto*, 109 l ^, 
Invetttion^ cxplorattory t if 5 
Italy, mowoKwlodie ttyle in, $$ 
wet of, 14$ 

70^ 1 

"Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwolfe," 
significance behind, 231 et 

Jew Stiss, Feuchtwanger, 106 

Kreisler, Fritz, 144 

Kuhnau, Johann, Bible Sonatas of, 

pioneer in musical realism, 84 

et seq. 

Last Judgment, Michel Angelo, 

Leipsig, Bach in, 224 

Bach's altercations at, 238, 242 

et seq t> 258 et seq. 
conditions in, 225 et seq. 
material afforded Bach at, 256 
music composed for Town 

Council, 216 
St Matthew Passion written at, 


*/#, Sanford Terry, i 
Life, Spitta, 4 

Life and Times y Machiavelli, 104 
L*/* of Luther, Michelet, 42 
Liszt, Franz, 194 

concertos of, a to 
L$teywy /GwwwfW of jy$fw, JL he^ 

Louk ICIV, king, 36 
LQbeck, Bach's study at, 72 
"Uineberg Variations," symbolism 

Luther, Martin, effect of common 

people on, 33 et seq. 
ftitthmifttffp for music, 42 
reaction to hymns, 40 */ seq. 
Michelet, aax 

benit, 1 * 

MachkvelH, Ntccolo, ajo 
Madrigal, Elizabethan compoter^ 

origtoal form, 


Martin C&fca&w&, Charles Dick 

ens, 148 
Medwual Europe, Thorndike, 24, 

104, 218 
Medieval Stag*, The* E. K, 

Chambers, 217 
Melody, feature of Italian music, 


mathematical basis, 199 ft $eq. 
speech-, 184 
Mendelssohn, Felix, a 
Mienzel, on Louis XIV, a8 *t **$> 
Michel Angelo, a, 52 
Milton, John, 150 
Modes, effect of Bach** grouping 

00, 201 

in Bach's time, 201 
Monteverde, Claudio, 7 
More, Thomas, 33, Xo 
Mosewius, Johann, on Bach, 16 *t 

Mozart, Wolfgang, a 

use of polyphony, 132 
MftMhautem, Bach at, 90 a **?*, 

98 ** **, 
government bound to religion, 

107 ** J*9 

place in Peasant** War, 105 
Mitral Patnting! in English 
Ckurchts dwing tht MUdl* 
Ag*s> Frank Kendon, 51 
Music, after the war, 7 
banishment of German* 144 
before the war, 7 
cause of development, 159 
Christian truth b> 63 

comic nature of, >6 
comntctkm with life, 75 




ft f#j. 

inflaeix* el Ajtm&m stfta^ 4$ 
la rektk to reality, 64 

interpreted in terms of religion, 

113 et $&% 
Italian in vogue, 126 
mass-expression in, 40 
medium of mysticism, 116 
modern, 150, 204 
need for expression through, 50 
parallel in architecture, ia8 */ 

stq. t !3a ft I*?,, 148 
part, 6> 
pictorial tendenciet of Bach's, 


revelations through, na 
revival of primitive, 7 
self -revelation through, 192 
substructure of the greatest, 44 
tonic possibilities of Bach's, 13 
transition to Italian homo- 

phony, 147 tt s*q. 
tmmitory period, ta$ 
Musical Standard^ 94 
Musician*, costumes of, $ 
courses of lift open to German, 


degradation, 14$ 
general opinion of Bach, 75 

**Nieit dir, Htrr, twkiiftt 

meaning behind, 157 *t s*q. 
Niemchc, FricdHck, a6o 
Novello & Cc^ Mer,, xii 
Nun Kofnm, ckr Heickn Hci- 
IsndL^ acc^sibl Cttntn.tii> 171 

Opera, Italian^, 144 

toy of the wealthy classw, i 
Orgait, mrrangtimntf of 

for, 5j 


-. f ^ 

> Jp(^f| 9^4 

pedal work for> 151 


Organ (Continued) 
today's degeneration, 65 et seq. y 


"OrgelbGchlein," collection made 
at Weimar, 277 

Palestrina, 7, 143 

use of folk music, 40 
Paradise Lost* John Milton^ 165 
Parwt$so> Dante, 63 
Parry, Sir Charles, on Bach, xi 
Passions, Bach revealed through, 

219 tf/ seq. 
cremtivt attitude, 171 
(set also St. John Passion and 

St. Matthew Passion) 
Passion tervic Bach** concep 
tion of, 251 et seq. 
Peasant War in Germany, Ingels, 

of C*nti*at\on, 
&, H. Towner, 267 

) Bunyta> 64, 

1x3 *t 

Poc, Edgar Alkn, 141 

W***w3 mwwmy y* 

intricate example, 
vdh of, 143 . 
(tee alto Harmony) 
Popularity Bach*! port-war, 7 
^ufferou*, 5 
in G 



__j place i, yi 
ProkovJev, Serge* concerto* of, 

Realism, Bach educated in 
school of, 4 et seq^ 36 

in arias, 14 

in Bach's music, 17, 49 et seq.> 
85, 175 et seq.y 220 et seq, 

limitations in music, 54 

reason for Bach's, 55 

types of Bach's, 59 et seq. 
Recitative, Bach's use of, 182 et 

importance in cantata, 233 

Italian, 184 

reasons for, 181 et $eq 
Reformation, economic aspect, 26 

in England, 31 
Religion, chained to economics, 36 

decline of Christendom, 104 et 

divisions of Christianity, 262 

effect on Bach, 219 

folk-gods, 266 et seq. 

internationalism of, 23 

music interpreted in terms of, 
113 et seq* 

of the governing daw of Ger 
many* 31 & s*q> 

rationalization of, 24 

shift in centre of popular e- 
pre#$Io% 246 

Rwolvtiom o/ CW$Btf*of** 
Fllttde** Petrie, ax, 139 
Richelieu, Armand, 229 
Rowetti, Dante Gabriel, 44 
Rubinstein, Anton, 161 


dcmWe drftma of, 213 
mood expressed through, 

Parcel!, H<wff t 

Hit of 



Mti* . . - 
McndelohB>s revival, 14 


St Matthew Passion" (ConPd) 
reality of, 250 */ s&q. 
reason for writing, 242 et seq,, 

246 tt seq. 

sorrowful arias in, 208 
{set also Passions) 
Savonarola, Girolamo, 104 
"Schmikke dich o Bebe Seele,'* 


Schubert, Franz, 193 
Schumann, Robert, t$ 
SchOu, Heinrkh, Bach's prede* 

cesaor, 7 *** 4 
Schwitcer, Dr. Albert, on Bach, 
xi, i, 4, 17 it t*t* 57, $7 
207, 23$, 259, 276 
on the chorale, 127 
Scott, David, xii 
Shaw, Bernard, a 
SWley, Percy B, a, So 

Hani Byrd, 197 
Sophoclet, a 
Spenser, Edmund, a 
Sphta, Jaliue, critickm of, 1^5 ei 

S7 in, 

Richard, dlsnegmrd lot 

gsurmt of exprwttoOj 7 
S^r*Wky f Ig^r, 4$ 

coocertot of, *io 
Study of BUkSs Book of 

"Suite in G Minor," Hen ry Pur- 

cell, so% 
Suite*, Jcy~en! 1% aoi 

<M uto Fmdb 
Sdliv^n, Sir Arthur, I 
Swift, Dean, avag* tire t i| 
SymboUtm, in Bftdi, *6 tt if. 

in muic and tculpturc^ 54 


Telemann Singing Society, Bach 

conductor of, 257 
compositions for, 259, 264 
Terry, Prof. Sanford, on Bach, 

xi, 34 *t s*q* 57, 129, 234, 


Thuringk, headquaner* of Protes* 

tant movement, 32 
homeland of the Bachs, 28 
place in Pea^tnti* War, 105 
Tolstoy, Liov Nikolaiwitch, 64 
Translation*, source of English, 

a 7 4 

Treiber, John Frederick, 90 
Treiber, John Philip, 70 
Tritt auf dk Ot 

ceible cantata, 1 7 1 
TtchaikoviJcy, Peter, $ 
Turner, Joseph, 141 

Sir Thomw More, 

md GWd, TM Dim, 6 3> 

Vivaldi, Antonio, 119 
concerto form under, tio 
of r 146 *t iff* 

Wagner, Richard, i, 4 

appreciation of dramatic po- 

brtaking away from Italian 

effect cm music of Bach, 17 
relation 10 popl, ssf 
Hit of p01f^sf i |s 
Wftlltef i J0tara organ Ut at 


"Well Tempcrtd Clavlclwrd,** be- 
otop df f ifi 

wit m hoctmto 

cxpIorT, iff 


Widor, M., 83, note Wordsworth, William, a 
Wilson, Steuart, 160 

Wolf, Hugo, on the function of Zelter, Carl Friedrich, 13 

music> a 3 a Zwingli, Ulrich, 61